Human-like robot being built in Ottawa

Lead scientist Emil Petriu, a computer scientist at the University of Ottawa, is developing a robot that he hopes will be useful in areas such as nursing, explosive device disposal, nuclear plant maintenance and even companionship.

The most important part of the new technology they are using to build this robot is biology-inspired touch-sensitive artificial skin that can sense contact, profile, temperature and elasticity of object surfaces much like humans can.

Petriu told CBC News, “We are using biology as our source of inspiration. Human beings are most comfortable interacting with devices that move and respond the same way we do.”

They are using a robot as a test subject, replacing the mechanical parts of its head and hands with more life-like parts they have designed.

Petriu believes robots must be user-friendly in very specific ways if they are to be successfully used in a nursing or home care capacity. “It’s critical that they should have a warm, fuzzy feeling or they don’t feel human,” he said.

If a human comes into contact with a robot, they will feel more comfortable if the robot’s skin is warm, for example. Petriu has developed artificial skin made of elastic silicon and embedded with tactical and temperature sensors, that is warmed to human skin temperature by embedded white tubes that circulate hot water in the artificial skin.

He is also mounting a set of artificial muscles embedded as tiny motors on various parts of an anatomically correct model of a human skull. It features a spring loaded jaw that moves the same as a humans would.

His goal is to create a life-like face that can convey complex human emotions from sadness to anger.

The coding system used to link facial expressions to particular combinations of muscles is the same system that will inform the programming of the skin on Petriu’s test skull.

He believes robots will one day be symbiotic companions, similar to our pets, providing companionship without the complication of human relationships.

Source: CBC News


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