August 9th, 2010
By: Heidi Blake
The humanoid machine, called Nao, hunches its shoulders when it feels sad and raises its arms for a hug when it feels happy.
It has been designed to mimic the emotional skills of a one-year-old child and is capable of forming bonds with people who treat it with kindness.
Nao is able to detect human emotions through a series of non-verbal “clues”, such as body-language and facial expressions, and becomes more adept at reading a person’s mood through prolonged interaction.
It uses video cameras to detect how close a person comes and sensors to work out how tactile they are.
The wiring of the robot’s “brain”, designed to mirror the neural network of the human mind, allows it to remember its interactions with different people and memorise their faces.
This understanding, along with a set of basic rules about what is “good” and “bad” for it, allow the robot to indicate whether it is “sad” or “happy”.
The actions used to display each emotion are preprogrammed but Nao decides by itself which feeling to display, and when.
“We’re modelling the first years of life,” said Lola Cañamero, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire who led the project to create Nao’s emotions.
“We are working on non-verbal cues and the emotions are revealed through physical postures, gestures and movements of the body rather than facial or verbal expression.”
Cañamero believes that robots will act as human companions in future.
“Those responses make a huge difference for people to be able to interact naturally with a robot,” she said.
“If people can behave naturally around their robot companions, robots will be better-accepted as they become more common in our lives.”
Nao was developed as part of a project called Feelix Growing, funded by the European commission.
Though some scientists believe that robots could be used to help around the house, or to care for the elderly, in the future, others have warned that the humanoids could spin out of control and attack their owners by accident.
June 8, 2010
FARS News Agency
“The conditions we are experiencing today need planning for new orders in the world and (our) cooperation and co-thinking for organizing the conditions,” Ahmadinejad told reporters before departing for Istanbul, Turkey to take part in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
Reminding that major world and Asian players will take part in the Istanbul conference, the Iranian president underlined that “Iran, too, will have active participation in drafting the final statement, taking stances as well as mutual consultations” with participants in the conference.
Ahmadinejad said that his visit will take place at the invitation of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and pointed out that he is slated to meet other foreign officials during the visit.
April 27, 2010
Imagine something between a computer game and a pet that helps makes you slim. One inventor did just that and came up with Autom — a robot that will look dieters in the eye and tell them what they need to hear.
Users can have daily conversations with the 38-centimetre-tall (15-inch) robot, which will crunch calories and provide feedback and encouragement on their weight-loss progress.
For those who hate manuals — there isn’t one. Switch Autom on and it’s ready to go.
Its blue eyes open and its head swivels as a computer inside its head allows it to search for a human face in front of it and maintain eye contact.
“Hello, I’m Autom! Press one of the buttons below to talk to me,” it says in a robotic female voice with an American accent. “I’m ready to get started. Let’s keep working together.”
Users tap their details onto the robot’s screen in response to its spoken questions about weight, diet, exercise regime and goals and over time it builds up a knowledge of the dieter’s strengths and weaknesses to tailor its questions and advice accordingly.
The information is also processed to provide graphs on their progress and habits over time.
The brainchild of Cory Kidd, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a doctorate in human-robot interaction, Autom hits the US market later this year, retailing for about 500 dollars.
The 80-billion-dollar US weight loss market has already been targeted by Nintendo with its Wii Fit and My Weight Loss Coach games but Kidd is banking on Autom offering dieters a more personalised way of using technology to slim down.
It is a so-called sociable robot, a new generation of robots that adapt their behaviour in order to interact with humans.
Autom looks fairly simplistic, with a head and neck attached to a rectangular box-shaped body on two stumpy legs. Its face has no nose and only the hint of a mouth.
But the cutting-edge field of human-robot interaction combines insights from the social sciences as well as technology and medicine
“It draws heavily on human psychology — so understanding how we as people interact with one another,” Kidd told AFP. “It relies on cues that people use in everyday communication.”
February 15th, 2010
By John Gever
Social function improved in autism-spectrum patients treated with the hormone oxytocin, according to a small study.
Following oxytocin inhalation, adults with Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism were more inclined to play with the most socially responsive partner in a video ball game, reported Angela Sirigu of the CNRS lab in Bron, France, and colleagues.
Also, when participants were shown pictures of human faces, they were more likely to focus attention on the eyes, an important marker of social interaction, the researchers found.
These behaviors are important markers of social function, Sirigu and colleagues explained in their report, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study compared the effects of oxytocin in 13 individuals with autism-spectrum symptoms. Another 13 age- and sex-matched normal controls also played the video ball game without oxytocin.
“Under oxytocin, patients respond more strongly to others and exhibit more appropriate social behavior and affect, suggesting a therapeutic potential of oxytocin through its action on a core dimension,” the researchers asserted.
Oxytocin is best known for its actions in prompting childbirth and lactation, but it is also produced throughout life. Previous research has suggested roles for the hormone in emotional regulation and social behaviors. One study found that inhaled oxytocin made adults more trusting of others in a game situation.
Some investigators have also found that oxytocin levels are depressed in autistic individuals. One of the hallmark symptoms of autism is social withdrawal and impaired responsiveness to other people, marked by such behaviors as greatly diminished eye contact.
Participants in the study were 17 to 39 years old, with an average age of 26. Ten had received clinical diagnoses of Asperger’s syndrome, and three were considered to have high-functioning autism.
Patients received either a nasal spray containing oxytocin or an ineffective dummy nasal spray and participated in behavioral experiments 50 minutes later. In the video ball game, participants played a game of toss-and-catch with three cartoon characters whose interaction with the player could vary. Initially, each character sent the ball to the player 33 percent of the time, passing it between themselves the rest of the time. After awhile, the percentages changed such that one character would send the player the ball 70 percent of the time, the second sent 30 percent of balls to the player, and the third sent just 10 percent of balls to the player. The player was promised a payment for each ball he or she received.
September 11, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Mothers who exercise more during pregnancy may give birth to children with higher IQs, according to psychologist Richard E. Nisbett, author of Intelligence and How to Get It.
“Children whose mother exercised 30 minutes a day score around eight points higher on standard IQ tests than children whose mothers were more sedentary,” he said.
The Western medical profession once believed that exercise after the first trimester of pregnancy might place the fetus at risk, but new research is increasingly discrediting this idea. The British government recommends that women remain active throughout pregnancy, noting that the more active a woman is, the easier it will be for her body to adapt to the experience of pregnancy and the easier her labor will be.
Running, stretching and using light weights are among the exercises that many pregnant women can do easily.
“Exercising large muscle groups increases the growth of neurons and adds to the blood supply of the brain,” Nisbett writes. A woman who exercises during pregnancy and also breastfeeds for at least nine months will raise her child’s IQ an average of 14 points, he said.
Nisbett says that the way parents interact with their children can also help boost their IQ. He encourages parents to ask their children questions that they already know the answer to, and to explain how they know. This helps children develop the ability to find the answers to their own questions. He also encourages the practice of “anticipation exercises,” games in which parents encourage children to predict future events, such as where a submerged animal will emerge from the water.
Research suggests that mothers are the most important influences in their children’s intellectual development, he said, but that fathers contribute relatively little.
“The mother is the most important IQ agent here,” he said. “In families dominated by a father, there are higher mathematical skills but that’s all we contribute, I’m afraid.”