Monday, May 15, 2006

Appliance with Attitude

You think your alarm clock has a difficult user interface? Put yourself in its place.
Imagine yourself as a rational home appliance. Try to express yourself to these stinky humans running around. They seem to communicate by rolling their eyes and contorting their faces. It would be hopeless to try to learn a language that complex.

Here comes iCat. This robot research platform from Philips Research Technologies puts a cute plastic face on your household machines.

The little yellow friend will not only add voice and voice recognition but also an expressive face to your household interface.

What is driving this desire to talk to machines?
iCat's 'father', civil engineer Dr Albert van Breemen, has a simple answer:

"Because we humans like it. We use facial expressions in everyday communication, and when a speaking robot does the same thing, we very quickly lose our reserve and start treating it as a pet, or even a person. Since the whole point of iCat is to make people use technology in a spontaneous, and even instinctive fashion, it just had to have facial expression."

Now instead of worrying that your household machines might break down, you may have to worry about offending them and making them cry.

Check out this link to an iCat video: Playing tic-tac-toe.

Earlier post
What's for dinner?
Another interface robot, SCOTY.

RNW: iCat, the empathetic robot


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