First Social Robot in Poland
The Polish scientists headed by Professor Krzysztof Tchoń from the Department of Cybernetics and Robotics, Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland, have created a social robot that can communicate and interact with people. They called him FLASH (Flexible Autonomous Social Liter Helper). Construction of the robotis based on an integration platform for diverse robotic technologies which enables experimental verification of these technologies in a social environment (HRI experiments). These social robots are designed to interact with people and they should provide some kind of "entertainment" or social enrichment for humans. They have the characteristics to induce an emotional response in humans.
FLASH has been tested in numerous social environments, such as ‘Intention and comprehension of behavior’, where robots are devoted, among others, to enter the same “niche” in the human society as pets and have been also applied as alternatives to animal assisted therapy when the utilization of living animals is not feasible. The perception of FLASH's head was tested in an experiment involving 50 schoolchildren aged 8-11 years. Scenarios of EMYS behavior were prepared to encourage children to play with him. The experiment was designed to examine both how the robot’s emotional expressions affect the interaction and whether the children are able to decode the intended expressed emotions correctly.
FLASH life began in 2008 when EU-funded, four-year research program LiREC was launched. One of the tasks of the project was to create a social robot that would be able to establish interaction with humans.
The robot’s height is 130 cm, with 64 cm ‘normal’ width he is able to spread up his arms up to 170 cm. Two-wheeled platform allows him moving. He is able to locate a man, look him in the eye and talk to him (using the resource meanings and words programmed by their creators), and catch the light object. The robot recognize basic colors and human sentiment. He knows how to express their emotions and he raises almost the same positive reactions in humans.
FLASH-designers were inspired by the animated characters that evoke positive associations. This inspiration is particularly clear at the head, which was designed by Krzysztof Kubasek from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw. He refers to the ninja turtles and consists of three movable plates. In the middle are placed eyes. His next-generation, FLASH Mk II, is currently constructed by Jan Kędzierski, Michał Dziergwa and Paweł Kaczmarek.
The social robot is able to communicate with people in a natural way and transmit all information in an emotional way. The scientists are sure that social robots - like this - will soon be able to use in care centers where they will be leased to the elderly, lonely people. Often such people have difficulty in using new technologies to communicate with loved ones. Robots could prompt them how to use Facebook or Skype, or remind you about important things, for example, taking a tablet.
The constructors of this social robot would like to rent him all round the world just to check his ability to establish a long-term relationship with old people. More information on the program and FLASH is available at http://flash.ict.pwr.wroc.pl/.
(written by Jan Skonieczny and Witold Kwasnicki)