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Japanese robots appointed teaching assistants


Japanese robots appointed teaching assistants

By Jesper Spangsmark

Two 120-centimetre tall humanoid robots are to carry out teaching and research tasks at DTU and greet ministers on the red carpet.

DTU has recently invested in two humanoid Pepper 1.8 a robots from the Japanese producer SoftBank Robotics . The humanoid robots are designed to interact and communicate with people, and they have the unique property that they are able to recognize faces and ‘read’ feelings by analysing facial expressions and tone of voice. And depending on who the robots are talking to—and the person’s mood—they adapt, for example, their own tone of voice and choice of words.

Even though the robots with their four wheels and cute face most of all look like a mixture of radio-controlled cars, dolls, and other favourite children’s toys, they are actually extremely sophisticated hardware products:

The head is fitted with four microphones, two HD cameras (in the mouth and in the forehead), and a 3D depth sensor behind the eyes. There is a gyroscope in the torso and touch sensors in the head and hands. The mobile base has two sonars, six lasers, three sensors, and a gyroscope.

Together with a powerful software package, this enables the robots to speak different languages, imitate human movement patterns, navigate through crowded rooms, greet people politely, serve coffee, and much more.

Research and teaching

The robots’ versatility enables them to solve many different tasks:

“They will both be working as ‘teaching assistants’ and as programmable hardware, for example on the Artificial Intelligence and Data study programme,” explains Associate Professor Thomas Bolander, who is responsible for one of the robots at DTU Compute.

But the robots will also be involved in research activities, and Associate Professor Martin Mose Bentzen, who is ‘dad’ to the second robot at DTU Management Engineering, is looking forward to the interdepartmental collaboration and the interaction with the robots:

“The two robots provide new avenues for studying human interaction with artificial intelligence, and they allow us to see how robots respond to, for example, an environment with both humans and other robots.”

Attraction and mascot

In addition to their research and teaching duties, the robots also have an obvious potential as attractions and mascots, according to Per B. Brockhoff, Head of Department of DTU Compute:

“I expect we will use the robots at conferences, events, VIP visits, and activities aimed at high schools, where they will be excellent company for all our external stakeholders—from potential students to representatives from industry and public authorities,” he says.

source: Technical University of Denmark

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