Why? Krichmar believes that making a robot exhibit fear or caution might help make it better decisions. A search-and-rescue drone, for example, might stay put during foul weather instead of taking a risk to complete its mission. There might be other times that it might be better to build a robot that doesn’t care what dangers it might face.
Krichmar has developed “Carl’s Junior” a sensitive robot that looks like a turtle with colored stripes across its shell. This therapeutic robot is being used at a nearby school to help with children on the autism spectrum who seem to respond well to an inanimate, yet responsive object.
In contrast, Michele Rucci at Boston University is working on making robots see better. He has found robots don’t have good perception not because they don’t have good cameras or sensors, but because they can’t make the normal micro-movements in the eyeball and head that people do thousands of times per second. So Rucci’s team figured out how to capture these movements and transfer them to a humanoid robot.
“As the robot is moving with subtle eye and head movements, it’s point of view is subtly changing, Rucci said. “It gives a cue about the three-dimensional structure of the environment. We use this to determine how far the objects are from the robot.”
Other teams are presenting some unique takes on robot development, such as teaching a robot to learn like a baby from the University of Plymouth (UK), beefing up the "brains" behind robot cognition, decision-making and movement.
Where is this field headed? “You will see robots with these capabilities actually doing things in the home or for search and rescue,” Krichmar said. “The time is right and its moving.”