UTA Launches Emotional Robotics Living Lab

How can we develop robots that humans can trust and respond to as companions and caregivers?

The University of Texas at Arlington has launched a new Emotional Robotics Living Lab to investigate what our future will look like with robots and how they can be integrated into the home to provide physical and emotional support.

“The idea here is not to replace humans but to fill a gap,” said Julienne Greer, UTA assistant professor of Theatre Arts and director of the lab. “We are using theatre arts to design ways for robots to create bonds of trust and emotion with humans of different ages and improve their quality of life.”

Greer and colleagues Ling Xu and Noelle Fields, both assistant professors in UTA’s School of Social Work, and Kris Doelling, research engineer at UTA Research Institute (UTARI), recently carried out a study with older adults at an independent living facility in Texas where the robot and adults interacted using well-known sonnets from Shakespeare. This study, which was funded with a $20,000 seed grant from UTA’s Interdisciplinary Research Program, found that after three weeks of interactions, there was a significant drop in depression and increase in human-robot social engagement among those older adults.

“We are now looking to make the experience more immersive so that the robot and the adults play out an entire scene of Shakespeare together, such as the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene,” Greer said. “We hypothesize that the more immersive the theatre intervention, the deeper and more positive the responses in older adults will be in regards to depression and social engagement.”

The new lab will feature two robots from SoftBank Robotics, NAO® and Pepper®. Pepper is a 4-foot-tall humanoid robot with large, expressive eyes and lifelike gestures that can connect with people on an emotional level. NAO is a smaller humanoid robot, designed to be an interactive companion.

Click here to read more about UTA’s Emotional Robotics Living Lab. 

 

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