NAO Anthropomorphic Robot
Just 57cm tall, this autonomous, programmable humanoid robot has become a global phenomenon used by scientists, schools and research institutions. The NAO project was first launched in 2004 by Aldebaran Robotics, a French start-up company head-quartered in Paris.
The NAO robot is specifically designed with features like 25 degrees freedom of motion, an advanced sensor network and communication devices so it can walk, talk and act like a human. Recently, research has taken the NAO robot beyond the limitations of a typical program-controlled robot to an autonomous entity capable of artificial intelligence.
It is the first robot in the world capable of expressing human emotions and actually forms bonds with humans who treat it kindly. NAO can recognise and react to human emotion like a smile or laugh, and by using a neural network brain it can remember these social interactions.
These ‘memories,’ combined with a basic understanding of the robot’s immediate surroundings, allows NAO to reach an autonomous reactive emotion such as happiness or sadness that it actually decides for itself, as opposed to a pre-programmed setting. The way in which NAO forms ‘bonds’ with humans has been built upon similar attachment processes that human and chimpanzee infants undergo when they are very young.
This research has been developing under the Feelix Project, which is funded by the European Commission and led by Lola Cañamero, a computer scientist at the University of Hertfordshire. ‘”This behaviour is modelled on what a young child does,” said Dr Cañamero. “This is also very similar to the way chimpanzees and other non-human primates develop affective bonds with their caregivers.”
Due to its anthropomorphic features, the NAO Robot has also been used as a tool to encourage children with autism. Research shows that children with autism are attracted by mechanical devices, and with NAO’s ability of basic social interaction various institutions such as Notre Dame psychology have used it as a means of stimulating simple conversation between robot and child. Similarly, The Feelix Project has developed NAO robots to have individual personalities as to adapt and provide the best ‘social partner’ for children with learning difficulties.
A new project called Aliz-E, also funded by the commission, will take NAO’s emotional development toward medical applications in hospitals to support the roles of doctors, nurses and patients. Researchers are also looking into NAO’s possible function as a domestic robot in so-called “Smart Homes.”
A Smart Home is a domestic intelligent environment where various components such as the fridge, oven and lights are all connected and controlled by a central network. Current research is looking into programming NAO as part of this network where the robot is tempered by a combination of sensors, cameras, laser range scanners and human communication.
To learn more about NAO’s technological advances and all the many ways these robots have been applicable in a variety of sectors, visit the company’s website HERE.
by Nadia Alexandrou
Gloobbi Representative based in Paris