Future robotic staff to work with single brain that jumps from one bot to another

June 4th, 2009 - 12:05 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 4 (ANI): British experts at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield believe that it may be possible to make it less time-consuming and demanding to control a whole staff of robotic servants with different tasks, bodies and features by giving them a single artificial “personality” that jumps from one to another.

Researcher Kerstin Dautenhahn and her colleagues have even created an ideal robotic home in a typical British suburban semi-detached house with around ten rooms across two floors.

The researchers have revealed that there are around five robots of varying shapes and sizes in the house, besides computer screens displaying a graphical companion called Greta, which allows the human residents a different way to interact with the robots.

Dautenhahn points out that an average person may find such a high-tech environment overwhelming.

“Studies show that people aren’t very good at dividing their attention among dozens of objects. It can be confusing having various machines in your house all operating simultaneously - are they actually doing what I told them to do?” New Scientist magazine quoted her as saying.

Dautenhahn and her colleagues decided to simplify things by creating a single interface that would act like a head butler, accept commands from the homeowner on behalf of all the subordinate robots, and answer questions.

However, the problem was that tying the interface to one “butlerbot” would require the homeowner to seek out that particular machine whenever they wanted their robot staff to do something, and all the other machines in the house would be unhelpfully mute if accosted by the homeowner.

The researchers said that that problem could be overcome by enabling the robotic “head butler” function to jump from machine to machine, so that at any point during a domestic chore the homeowner can accost and question the machine that’s in action.

“If it (the “head butler” interface) reaches the limit of what it can do itself, it will move to another machine and then back to the machine near you. So, for example, it can tell you it’s been able to pick up the towels from the bathroom,” said Dautenhahn.

In their initial experiments, the “head butler” resides in only one machine at a time, and thus only one robot stays active at any given moment.

The researchers also admit that flipping control from one robot to another is not straightforward.

The Hertfordshire team’s work is part of a Europe-wide project, Living with Robots and Interactive Companions (LIREC), that aims to move robots out of the lab and into the home. (ANI)

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