Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore say robots like Nadine will one day play a part in the workforce
The world’s most human-like robot has begun work as a university receptionist as scientists predict the new technology will eventually provide childcare and offer friendship to lonely elderly people.
With her soft skin and flowing brunette hair, Nadine does not only meet and greet visitors, smile, make eye contact and shake hands, but she can even recognise past guests and spark up conversation based on previous chats.
Unlike conventional robots, Nadine has her own personality, mood and emotions. She can be happy or sad, depending on the topic.
“This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening”
Prof Nadia Thalmann.
Powered by intelligent software similar to Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, she is the brainchild of scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and is based on her creator Prof Nadia Thalmann.
Prof Thalmann, the director of the Institute for Media Innovation who led the development of said robots such as Nadine are poised to become more visible in offices and homes in future.
“Robotics technologies have advanced significantly over the past few decades and are already being used in manufacturing and logistics,” she said.
“As countries worldwide face challenges of an aging population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future.
“Over the past four years, our team at NTU have been fostering cross-disciplinary research in social robotics technologies — involving engineering, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other fields — to transform a virtual human, from within a computer, into a physical being that is able to observe and interact with other humans.
“This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening. So in future, these socially intelligent robots could be like C-3PO, the iconic golden droid from Star Wars, with knowledge of language and etiquette.”
The University also unveiled its new tele-presence robot named EDGAR which has a rear-projecting screen for its face and two highly articulated arms.
By standing in front of a specialised webcam, a user can control EDGAR remotely from anywhere in the world.
The user’s face and expressions will be displayed on the robot’s face in real time, while the robot mimics the person’s upper body movements.
EDGAR can also deliver speeches by autonomously acting out a script. With an integrated webcam, he automatically tracks the people he meets to engage them in conversation, giving them informative and witty replies to their questions.
Such social robots are ideal for use at public venues, such as tourist attractions and shopping centres, as they can offer practical information to visitors.
Assoc Prof Gerald Seet from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering NTU, has spent the last three years developing EDGAR.
“EDGAR is a real demonstration of how telepresence and social robots can be used for business and education,” added Prof Seet.
“Telepresence provides an additional dimension to mobility. The user may project his or her physical presence at one or more locations simultaneously, meaning that geography is no longer an obstacle.
“In future, a renowned educator giving lectures or classes to large groups of people in different locations at the same time could become commonplace. Or you could attend classes or business meetings all over the world using robot proxies, saving time and travel costs.”
Given that some companies have expressed interest in the robot technologies, the next step for these NTU scientists is to look at how they can partner with industry to bring them to the market.
This article was written by Sarah Knapton Science Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.