Body language will play an important role in future interactions between humans and robots. To that end, Tsukuba University’s Groupware Lab (Credit: Hideaki Kuzuoka , Hiroshi Kasai , Ikkaku Kawaguchi, Toshimasa Yamanaka) have created the Talk-Torque and Talk-Torque 2 robots to study non-verbal communication.
TalkTorque-2 is a robot we developed to study human-robot interaction. We have been using this robot as a museum guide robot to explore how the robot can naturally interact with humans while it is presenting exhibits to visitors. The exterior appearance of the robot was designed to make it look “intelligent and gentle”. In order to support the robot’s bodily actions during the presentation, we made the back of the head and the tips of the arms a bit more pointed so that it is clear in which direction the robot’s head is turning and where the robot is pointing. The robot utilizes human skills when guiding visitors. These skills are based upon findings in social science studies. For example, the robot pauses and restarts its utterances in order to attract the visitors’ attention. It also naturally twists at the waist in order to guide the visitors’ spatial positions into the desired appropriate formation.
The researchers sought the help of Tsukuba University’s resident designer Hiroshi Kasai (who had previously created a pair of conceptual robots called Gemini) to refine the look of the original Talk-Torque. Like Gemini, Talk-Torque 2’s purpose would be to explain museum exhibits to visitors. The result is a stationary robot that is rather statuesque, but can bend and twist at the waist, tilt its head, and move its arms. The robot is equipped with three cameras in its collar and a laser range finder to determine a person’s position and direction.
Talk-Torque 2 was one of the University of Tsukuba’s exhibits at Ars Electronica 2011. Experiments in non-verbal communication were conducted with the assistance of a sociologist and are still ongoing.
A video of the original Talk-Torque can be viewed after the break.
[source: Tsukuba University Groupware Lab (JP)]
Video (Talk Torque 1 gesture tests):
Tsukuba University Groupware Lab | Flickr | Ars Report