Imagine a world where smart home assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri were more than a voice? How about if a home robot gave eye contact or had body language?
Internet of things and electronic engineering students at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have been busy in the institute’s Applied Robotics Lab working on the emerging area of social robotics.
Together they have created a ‘Lampbot’, a robotic friend, which uses software to work out how people feel and Google’s latest chatbot technology to assist where it can.
What’s different about this student project is that students have created an assistant that is socially acceptable in a home environment, by combining the physical build of a robotic arm and Google’s chatbot technology with a domestic lamp.
It not only has all the answers but can also read human emotions and expressions and then respond accordingly with its own body language using its movement, eyes and head dress.
WIT School of Engineering lecturer Jason Berry who runs the lab at WIT explains that technology like Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri mean we now consider having conversations with artificially intelligent bots over the internet as normal.
“But what if we wanted to bring more than a robotic voice into our home...what if we want some movement, maybe even some emotions from our robot?” asks Berry.
Students working in the WIT Applied Robotics Lab combined their knowledge in electronics and software, with their imaginations to develop the ‘Lampbot’.
“One of the most powerful ways for humans to communicate with each other is with eye contact. The students leveraged this human trait in the design of the robot, helping the Lampbot to make more of an emotional connection with its humans,” Berry says.
Combining robotic arm technology with a home lamp, WIT students created the “world’s first 6-axis Robotic Lamp Assistant”. Combining the latest in linear actuators and vision systems with Google’s speech recognition and chatbot technology WIT students have created a robotic home assistant “with the moves to back up the talk”.
“Traditionally when people think of robots the Terminator and the arms that build our cars come to mind. We are now in a time where robots are leaving the factories and labs to make their way into our homes. However none of these are suitable for a home environment and this is the design challenge facing engineers, scientists and technologists. We are delighted that students have been able to develop a solution over a few months. They have bright futures ahead.”
The students were studying the following courses: BSc (Hons) Applied Computing (The Internet of Things), BEng in Electronic Engineering and the Higher Cert in Electronic Engineering.