Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 08:27 UK

Probe into domestic robot usage

Bristol-based scientists have won a 1m grant to find out if a robot can safely work with people in a confined space, such as a kitchen.

The project - Co-operative Human Robot Interaction Systems (Chris) - is being run at the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL).

It will look specifically at scenarios such as a robot performing a task alongside a human.

The aim is to ensure the robot knows how interpret facial expression, body position, gestures and tone of voice.

Robots in society

"The project will look at the problems of a human and a robot working together in the same space, for example in a kitchen where the service robot is performing a task such as stirring soup, while you add cream," said Professor Chris Melhuish of (BRL).

"Not only does the robot need to know what the goal is (making the soup) but he also needs to know how hard to stir the soup, what it means when you hold up your hand to say enough, to interpret the look of pain on your face if you accidentally get splashed with hot soup, and to stop stirring when told."

Robots currently working in manufacturing are kept behind barriers for safety reasons - a measure that is not practical in the kitchen.

Professor Melhuish said: "If we can provide the 'thinking' necessary for safe robot human co-operation in the same physical space we will be a step closer to having service robots in society."

The project is a collaboration between robotic engineers, cognitive scientists, and psychologists from The University of the West of England and Bristol University.

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