Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Robots To Interact Freely With Visitors At London Aquarium

As part of an experimental program on integrating robots with humans, the London Aquarium will staff its entrance with a number of robots through the summer to see how the visitors relate to them.

A team of researchers from the University of Essex will provide three robotic tour guides which will approach and greet visitors as they enter. Responding to voice and registering emotive reactions, the robots will try to engage the visitors and conversation and present them with a number of attractions on their chest-mounted screens.

Other robots including humanoids and large teddy bears will join the project through the summer.

The University of Essex researchers are open sourcing their software which uses neural networks, allowing the robots to theoretically learn from their mistakes. The team has high hopes for the machines:

"Because they have the potential to detect rudimentary emotions via cameras in their eyes, such as when tourists are bored, it is hoped that by early next year the robots will identify lost, crying children, calm down stressed individuals, or provide entertainment for people waiting in queues."