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• M3-Kindy & Infant Robot Noby

The JST Erato Asada Project held a symposium today and revealed two new cognitive development robots to join CB², as well as M3-neony and M3-synchy (revealed earlier this year).  In order for humans and robots to coexist in a complex society, the robots must understand complex social interactions.  The researchers led by Prof. Minoru Asada of Osaka University believe that robots with intelligence based on the human cognitive development process is the key to smarter robots and that this research could teach us valuable lessons about human nature.  Of course, all the functions involved in the course of growing up are far from understood.  This is a relatively new field of research and involves various fields including psychology and neuroscience.

M3-Kindy is about the size of a five year old child and weighs 27kg (59 lbs) and so is actuated by 42 high performance motors and 109 tactile sensors.  The name is truncated from (wo)man-made-(wo)man and Kindergarten.  It has an expressive face capable of communicating various emotions, and will be used to study the hypothesis of a development model based on the effects of parental interaction.  It is equipped with speech recognition, and uses 2 cameras for eyes and 2 microphones to hear.  It was created in collaboration with Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro (famous for his Geminoid robots).  Unlike M3-neony, M3-Kindy is large enough that it can handle object manipulation tasks as well as walk with the aid of its minder, allowing the researchers to study new interactions.

Noby (Nine-month Old Baby), on the other hand, is a robot meant to model a 9 month old child – a critical period of development.  It is said to be a highly accurate model of the sensory and motor functions of a human baby, with each body part given accurate weight and thickness, measuring 71cm (2’3″) tall and weighing 7.9kg (17 lbs).  The body is covered in a soft skin with 600 tactile sensors, and like M3-Kindy it comes equipped with 2 cameras for seeing and 2 microphones for hearing the external world.  The researchers will use data of real babies’ development in an attempt to validate a new model of cognitive development.  It was developed with the help of AIST and Tokyo University researchers.

These robots will be used to further our understanding of human development while also achieving some semblance of a personal relationship between robots and humans.  Motor learning through direct human involvement will be key to the research. The teams involved are also on the cutting edge of soft, tactile skin for humanoid robots, with Tokyo University’s JSK Lab having developed a few baby robots of their own (see Macra).

Update: Japanese blogger K. Moriyama has uploaded several videos of the event, which I’ve tucked under the break.

[source: JST press release (JP)]

Video (M3-Kindy getting up) (Mirror):

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Video (M3-Kindy) (Mirror):

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Video (M3-Kindy walking hand-in-hand) (Mirror):

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Video (M3-Kindy crawling & standing up) (Mirror):

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Video (Noby) (Mirror):

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Video (Noby reacting to audio/visual stimuli) (Mirror):

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Video (Noby) (Mirror):

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Video (Noby) (Mirror):

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Video (M3-Neony walking via controller) (Mirror):

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Video (Pneuborn) (Mirror):

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video source: Node (JP)