Waseda University’s Sugano Lab created a series of emotional communication robots over the course of a decade in what came to be called the WAMOEBA Project (AMOEBA in Waseda University; Waseda Artificial Mind On Emotion BAse), dovetailing with the work being done on Hadaly-2 and WENDY. It gets the amoeba part of its name from its self-preservation control mechanism, which the researchers hypothesized could give rise to the communicative and emotional capacity of human beings. This self-preservation mechanism was based on “internal secretions” – a system which supervises and controls the battery voltage, circuit temperature, and electrical current. This in turn would affect the robot’s “emotions”, which are communicated through colors on its monitor as well as its tone of voice.
The robots were commonly equipped with 2 CCD cameras for vision, 2 microphones for sound localization, speakers for speech synthesis, ultrasonic and bumper sensors for obstacle avoidance, and internal sensors for battery voltage, current, and temperature. Several robots were created, beginning circa 1995-1999 with the WAMOEBA and WAMOEBA-2. The WAMOEBA-2R was presented publicly at the 1999 International Robot Exhibition, where crowds of people interacted with it and filled out questionnaires about their experience. WAMOEBA-2Ri followed in 2000-2003, which could recognize faces and visually track objects and reach for them. From 2003 until 2007 WAMOEBA-3 was used to further study interaction with humans.
Waseda University Sugano Lab