robots
Tech

New ’emotional’ robots aim to read human feelings

LAS VEGAS (Monitoring Desk) : The robot called Forpheus does more than play a mean game of table tennis. It can read body language to gauge its opponent´s ability and offer advice and encouragement.

“It will try to understand your mood and your playing ability and predict a bit about your next shot,” said Keith Kersten of Japan-based Omron Automation, which developed Forpheus to showcase its technology.

“We don´t sell ping pong robots but we are using Forpheus to show how the technology works with people,” said Kersten.

Forpheus is among several devices shown at this week´s Consumer Electronics Show which highlight how robots can become more human-like by acquiring “emotional intelligence” and empathy.

Although this specialisation is still emerging, the notion of robotic empathy appeared to be a strong theme at the huge gathering of technology professionals in Las Vegas.

Honda, the Japanese auto giant, launched a new robotics program called Empower, Experience, Empathy including its new 3E-A18 robot which “shows compassion to humans with a variety of facial expressions,” according to a statement.

Although empathy and emotional intelligence do not necessarily require a humanoid form, some robot makers have been working on form as well as function.

“We’ve been working very hard to have an emotional robot,” said Jean-Michel Mourier of French-based Blue Frog Robotics, which makes the companion and social robot called Buddy, set to be released later this year.

“He has a complex brain,” Mourier said at a CES event. “It will ask for a caress or it will get mad if you poke him in the eye.”

Other robots such as Qihan Technology´s Sanbot and SoftBank Robotics´ Pepper, are being “humanized” by teaching them to read and react to people´s emotional states.

Pepper is “capable of interpreting a smile, a frown, your tone of voice, as well as the lexical field you use and non-verbal language such as the angle of your head,” according to SoftBank.