Adaptive Robotic EQ for Well-being (ARoEQ)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Computer Laboratory

Abstract

Social robots are envisioned to interact closely with people safely and efficiently, and to add value to people's lives by helping, caring, teaching and entertaining. However, currently there is a major gap between public perception of humanoid / social robot capabilities and their actual capabilities. The cognitive and social capabilities of the current humanoid robots are still very limited.

Although social robotics is an inherently multi-disciplinary field, there are no systematic efforts to develop novel sensing, perception and understanding capabilities for these robots grounded in the state of the art in the fields of affective computing, social signal processing, computer vision and machine learning. To avoid re-inventing the wheel, researchers in HRI often and rightly utilise available sensing / perception tools from other domains, creating their own in-house datasets and evaluations. However, these practices hinder advance in social robotics, leading to a major lack of novel and domain specific tools, and a lack of measures for benchmarking due to a lack of annotated, publicly available multimodal interaction datasets that are vital for comparative evaluation.

This Fellowship aims to address these major gaps in HRI and social robotics. Its vision is to:

(1) equip humanoid robots with novel socio-emotional intelligence and adaptation capabilities grounded in the state of the art in affective computing, social signal processing, computer vision and machine learning fields;

(2) investigate the deployment of humanoid robots as socio-emotionally smart embodied personal devices that can potentially revolutionise our ability to maintain healthier behaviours and working environments, leading to resilient communities.

Planned Impact

The line of research targeted in this funding application is highly interdisciplinary and the research outcomes can be spun into the outer society in various ways. Relevant beneficiaries are identified based on the expected term of impact.

This Fellowship is likely to impact two major areas: Robotics and healthcare. The most immediate application of the proposed research is in the areas of social robotics, telepresence robotics and human-robot interaction. In the short to medium term, the proposed research has the potential to become applicable and expandable to multiple domains including healthcare, social work, education, accommodation, foodservice, retail trade, and arts and entertainment. With advances in AI and physical robot design, robots are starting to take on increasingly complex social roles in homes, workplaces, and public spaces. However, there is a major gap between public perception of humanoid / social robot capabilities and their actual capabilities. The proposed research will improve on the capabilities of the humanoid robots, bringing them closer to the expectations of the public. This is also expected to help with technology adoption, i.e., the adoption and acceptance of social Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) as new products to be used for public good.

Health has been identified as one of the top priorities in the RCUK Strategic Priorities and Spending Plan (2016-2020). In the medium term, the proposed research will contribute to this priority both by developing a better technical understanding of building socio-emotionally intelligent and adaptive robots, and by developing multidisciplinary knowledge about how to deploy such robotic systems as personal and/or self-management technology (e.g., a coach) to strengthen the emotional and social well-being of the unaffected populations for prevention and resilience, both in the workplace and outside.

Academic, artistic and philosophical motivations for researching intelligent machines and robots are well represented by the Science Museum's 2017 exhibition on robots that have started to be used in theatre plays (e.g., Spillikin) and dance performances (e.g., Robot, Blanca Li Dance Company). In the medium to long term, the robotic platform created as part of this project can potentially be used by the performers and artists.

In the longer term, this project will contribute to the UK's competence in Social Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) area adding value into its economy. The project will ensure international visibility for the research team, which in turn will contribute to building the UK's capabilities in social robotics through support for talented people, and attract other investments.

Publications

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