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Glasgow 2001 Monday, 3 September, 2001, 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK
Rise of the humanoids
Graphic BBC
By BBC News Online's Helen Briggs

Walking, talking humanoid robots with social intelligence will be commonplace in the future, raising new challenges for humankind.


The big question is what situations people will accept them in... and how intelligent people will want them to be, to accept them

Dr Frank Pollick
So says a psychology lecturer at the University of Glasgow, UK, who is conducting a study of the social interactions between humans and their robotic counterparts.

The technology exists to create truly remarkable machines that provide the illusion of life, says Dr Frank Pollick.

By the year 2050, humanoids could be working in care homes, taking on human football teams or reading the news on the TV, he predicts.

But the robots will have to appear to express emotions and transmit social signals if they are to be acceptable in everyday life, he believes.

Tai Chi

Speaking at the British Association Science Festival in Glasgow, Dr Pollick said he was investigating the interplay between humans and machines in the first step towards giving robots human-like qualities.

Robot PA
Dr Pollick is working with robots at the ATR Cyberhuman Project in Kyoto, Japan
He is studying how humans and humanoids co-operate in a peaceful Tai Chi exercise known as "sticky hands".

The pair - the robot he works with is called DB - put their hands together and attempt to perform a "mutually satisfactory" trajectory, he says.

Both the human and the robot need to learn the behaviour of the other so that the contact between the hands can be as light as possible, he says.

"People to date haven't done these physical interactions with robots," said Dr Pollick.

"The big question is what situations people will accept them in," he added. "And how intelligent people will want them to be, to accept them."

Cyberhuman Project

The bipedal robots in the study have been developed at the ATR Cyberhuman Project in Kyoto, Japan.

They are two metres tall with a metal skeleton and a shell of plastic. The robots have all the joints that make up the human body, and can move like a person.

They have four cameras attached to the head to give them focused and wide-angle vision.

Dr Pollick said "at first it was a little bit strange" to interact with a robot. But he predicts that children who have grown up with the new generation of robo-pets are likely to find humanoids acceptable.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dr Frank Pollick
The Japanese robot I work with is realy quite clever
See also:

06 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
30 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
12 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Links to more Glasgow 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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