February 7, 2014 11.15 am This story is over 117 months old

Expressive robots learn human emotion in Lincoln

Relationship research: University of Lincoln robots are learning about emotion to develop robot-human companionship in future.

Two robots from the University of Lincoln are helping scientists understand how relationships between humans and robots could develop in future.

ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network) is a robot developed by Dr John Murray from the Lincoln School of Computer Science.

ERWIN has the ability to express five basic emotions while interacting with a human.

It is part of a PhD study to discover out how some of the human-like thought biases in robot characteristics affect the human-robot relationship by collating data on each interaction.

The team hopes the research will help scientists to understand and develop more realistic relationships between humans and “companion” robots, but it could also help with understanding on how children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder form relationships.

ERWIN, looking sad. Photo: University of Lincoln

ERWIN, looking sad. Photo: University of Lincoln

Additionally, the team is using a 3D-printed, non-emotive robot to “study the different reactions people have to it compared to the emotive ERWIN. The aim is to discover which is most effective in engaging with participants, and whether those interactions are long or short-term.”

Humans interact and form different relationships due to different personalities, but with typical human-robot interaction, robots lack identifiable characteristics and personality to form a bond.

PhD student Mriganka Biswas said: “Cognitive biases make humans what they are, fashioning characteristics and personality, complete with errors and imperfections.

“Therefore, introducing cognitive biases in a robot’s characteristics makes the robot imperfect by nature, but also more human-like.

“Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce ‘characteristics’ and ‘personalities’ to the robot.

“If we can explain how human-to-human long-term relationships begin and develop, then it would be easier to plan the human-robot relationship.”

Another university robot, Keepon, is a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children.

It has a simple appearance and behaviour, making it easy for children – especially those with autism – to read its attentive and emotive actions.