Thursday, October 06, 2005

RoboNexus Afternoon

Of the afternoon sessions at the RoboNexus conference today I most enjoyed the presentation of some robotics from Japan sponsored by Japan External trade organization, JETRO.

Although the information about Osaka's presented by Dr. Eimei Onaga was very interesting (post from May 2005), I have to admit that the presentations with hardware are much more fun.

Dr. Takanori Shibata presented on the topic of his baby seal robot Paro. I have written about Paro before and seen pictures. I must admit that is much more engaging in person than in pictures. During the presentation paro sat on the table and moved around and coo-ed. You could see that the attention of the audience would shift from the presentation to the animal when it wriggled and bleeted for attention.

Dr. Shibata presented data from experiments with demetia patients that showed measurable improvement in their condition after therapy with Paro. They are encouraged by the results. They are currently selling a limited number of Paro theraputic pets for about US $3500.

Dr. Shibata talked about some of the thoughts that led to the design of the robot as a baby seal. Aesthetic criteria were most important from the start. The engineering followed.
He had watched interactions between people and a robot kitten. The kitten was very sophisticated but people became bored with it because their expectations were high. The robot looked so much like a real cat that the people expected it to act like a cat. Even with the impressive technology the robot cat could not live up to the expectations.
The baby seal, on the other hand, does not have to perform to anyone's expectations because people do not really know what to expect from it. Therefore, they concentrated on creating friendly and pleasing behavior unencumbered by the personality of a 'real' animal.

Dr. Tomotaka Takahashi also gave an excellent presentation and showed his robot Chroino. I do not yet have a picture of his robot. I will get one tomorrow and post it.


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