Better make sure you have plenty of visitors during your hospital stay, or they might send in the droids to keep you company.
AIST opened the doors of their lab for a couple of days (October 14th ~ 15th) to show off their robotics development and middleware. On display was the Actroid-F, developed by Kokoro Co. Ltd. and ATR. The operator’s facial expressions and head movements are tracked and replicated by the robot. The android is being positioned as an observer in hospitals to gauge patient reactions. However, despite the advances made in the last few years such as reducing the cost by a third by eliminating redundant actuators, it can’t escape the uncanny valley. The jerky head movements are particularly unnerving, but not to worry; its legs don’t actually work, so it can’t get up and chase you.
The robot has silicon skin – allowing it to make expressions such as blinking and frowning. It also can bow and tilt its head to one side.
The facial movements can be remotely controlled from a computer. The robot can also mimic humans. The robot is portable and half the weight of previous models. Its batteries can be charged at home.
Lead researcher Yoshio Matsumoto said his group hopes the robot can provide psychological support to hospitals and nursing home patients.
Also on hand were AIST’s Rapuda, a wheelchair equipped with a robotic arm, and the old standby HRP-2 Promet. It was tightening nuts and bolts using a new manipulator, but the focus was on the software. Delicate manipulation tasks are some of the most difficult to reproduce, and a team is working on simplifying the process.