The United Arab Emirates University and two of its professors are working on building the first emotional robot in the UAE. Dr. Massimiliano Cappuccio, associate professor at UAEU’s Department of Philosophy and director of the interdisciplinary cognitive science laboratory, and Jose Berengueres, assistant professor at the university’s robotics lab, are planning to create the first robot which can express as well as interpret humn emotion without the help of language.
Dr. Cappuccio’s team handles the social science part of the project, while Berengueres takes care of the the technological aspects.
“The idea is to focus on embodied cognition,” explains Dr. Cappuccio. “So we want to focus on bodily forms of interaction between human and robot. We won’t focus too much on linguistic communication, it is more something that can express a lot of emotions and also interpret your emotions and establish a strong bond with the human user. Imagine something like a pet that uses a lot of touch, gaze and gesture to communicate; no language.”
Dr. Cappuccio continues to mention that the goal is that the robot should be able to “correctly interpret the human gaze, touch and gesture and produce the same in a meaningful way”.
“Our lab will test the interaction and response from the point of view of the humans; Jose’s lab will develop the robot prototype based on the results of our experiments, and vice versa our experiments will be designed looking at the responses induced by the robot in the human users,” he adds.
UAEU, which was established in 1976, has been involved in the development of robotics for years now with many of their professors involved in events such as this year’s Joint UAE Symposium On Social Robotics and many other workshops on the subject. The symposium, which was inaugurated last year, will be held at New York University Abu Dhabi from the 20th to the 23rd of November, 2016. Robotics was a very important part of this year’s GITEX Technology week and will be the same at the symposium. Industry experts, educators and innovators will discuss the ethical and social implications of robotics, such as codes of conduct, moral and legal obligations towards artificial companions and public policy.
“There is one field d is cognitive robotics – robots that try to approximate (simulate) the human mind,” says Dr. Cappuccio. “In cognitive robotics, first of all you need to understand how the human mind works – functions like, for example, memory, perception, language processing – and the purpose is to replicate these functions in an artificial agent. And there is a big effort in research and development around this. Of course we are still at the early stage and there are concerns – concerns, for example, about how robots can make decisions regarding ethical issues or decisions that can have ethical implications. The symposium aims to discuss these topics, and explore different approaches and future directions in social robotics.”