JST ERATO, in collaboration with Osaka University’s Prof. Minoru Asada and Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro, have developed two new robots called M3-neony and M3-synchy which they unveiled to the press today. The “M3″ in their names is derived from Man-Made Man (or Woman Made Woman), i.e. an android, “neony” for neonate (baby), and “synchy” for synchronized communication. Their work combines elements of cognitive science, developmental psychology, and human-robot interaction.
M3-neony is a baby robot that is being used to research the development of fine motor skills, such as learning to crawl through trial and error as well as human assistance through physical contact. Details of how babies come to understand the relationship between their random body movements and the muscles that drive them are still unclear. This robot will be used to test machine learning software in order to better understand motor-learning behavior. As such it is 50cm (19.6″) tall, weighs about 3.5kg (7.7 lbs) – about the size of a newborn. A pair of CMOS cameras for sight and microphones for hearing, as well as gyro and accelerometer sensors, and tactile sensors provide various feedback. The robot has a total of 22 degrees of freedom, powered by high torque (41kg/cm) servo motors sold by Osaka-based robotics company Vstone.
M3-synchy is a mass communication robot which focuses on verbal and non-verbal communication such as gaze direction in particular, between multiple robots and humans. The main focus is on facial expressions and arm gestures, so it is an upper body robot only, with 17 DOF (2 eyes x3, neck x3, waist x2, 2 arms x3), measuring 30cm (12″) tall and weighing 2.5kg (5.5 lbs). The head is equipped with a single wide-angle lens CCD camera, two microphones, a speaker, and 15 LEDs which cause the robot to blush bright red. Combined with object recognition, speech recognition, and speech synthesis, the robot will be able to communicate in a variety of ways. The chest and arms appear to be based on Vstone’s Robovie-X hobby robot kit.
Other institutions with similar research projects may be able to purchase their own M3-neony and M3-synchy in the future, though there are currently no concrete plans for mass production. The robots use relatively inexpensive parts and low-maintenance servo motors, which is ideal for researchers without much of a background in robotics. You may recall that Osaka University previously collaborated on a child robot called CB2 (Child robot with Biomimetic Body) which was being used to research similar topics.
Some very cute photos follow after the break, and you can check out a video here.
JST ERATO | Osaka University