Recently TED has posted a couple of presentations from December 2010 by a pair of female roboticists. First up is Cynthia Breazeal, who’s pioneering work on expressive social robots (Kismet) paved the way for dozens of copies (including robots like Mertz and FR-i). Besides her work with Kismet and a bizarre-looking animal robot (Leonardo), we get a sneak peek at how robots might interact with kids. She also presents some of the other work done by students at MIT’s Personal Robotics Group including the rather creepy Nexi, the MeBot telepresence robot, and the robotic weight-loss coach Autom.
Video (Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots):
Next up is Heather Knight and her robotic comedian nick-named Data (Aldebaran’s NAO). The robot not only delivers punch lines, but uses audience feedback (using software co-developed with Scott Satkin and Varun Ramakrishna at CMU) to tailor its performance. She’s so interested in the intersection between robots and entertainment that she runs a lab called Marilyn Monrobot that creates performances and sensor-based art. If you’re familiar with the CMU Robot Census, now is your chance to see who was behind that, too!
Video (Heather Knight: Silicon-based comedy):
Cynthia Breazeal’s childhood dream of robot companions that enrich our lives may be just around the corner. Her work with Leonardo could probably be transferred to a commercial product in the future, and would create much more lifelike behavior than current robot toys like Pleo (hopefully the demo with the Cookie Monster toy was unscripted). The mixed reality game, with its box-like robot, is interesting but looks like it would benefit from something like SONY’s AIBO robot dogs or Aldebaran Robotics’ NAO.
As for Heather Knight’s wannabe stand-up comedian, it looks like it’ll need better material before it can compete with the likes of Dave Chappelle or Louis C.K., but I’ll bet the kids love it! Regardless of how successful these projects may be, at least they’re more useful than robots designed to kill people, and for that we’re thankful.
Update: Cynthia Breazeal has written a piece on her TED Talk and her work for CNN (click here).