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An engineering approach to sociable robots

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Robotics researchers and cognitive scientists are becoming more and more interested in so-called sociable robots. These machines normally have expressive power (facial features, voice, …) as well as abilities for locating, paying attention to, and addressing people. The design objective is to make robots which are able to sustain natural interactions with people. This capacity falls within the range classed as social intelligence in humans. This position paper argues that the reproduction of social intelligence, as opposed to other types of human ability, may lead to fragile performance, in the sense that tested cases may produce rather different performances to future (untested) cases and situations. This limitation stems from the fact that our social abilities, which appear early in life, are mainly unconscious in origin. This is in contrast with other human abilities that we carry out using conscious effort, and for which we can easily conceive algorithms and representations. This novel perspective is deemed useful for defining the obstacles and limitations of a field that is generating increasing interest. Taking into account the mentioned issues, a development approach suited to the problem is proposed. The use of this approach is demonstrated in the development of CASIMIRO, a robotic head with basic interaction abilities.
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Keywords: Cognitive science; Human-robot interaction; Robotics; Sociable robots

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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