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Robot Says: I Shrink I Am, I Shrink I Am

Scientists trying to create robots that sense human emotions

TUESDAY, Dec. 17(HealthDayNews) -- Feeling down? Need someone to listen to your problems? Well, someday you may be able to talk it over with your robot.

Vanderbilt University researchers are trying to create a robot that can sense your emotions and respond appropriately.

In an article in the December issue of Robotica, the researchers report they've taken the first steps towards creating a touchy-feely robot that can sense your psychological state.

There are two parts to this project. The first is to develop a system that accurately detects a person's psychological state by analyzing information from number of physiological sensors -- for example, one would measure heart rate.

The second part is to have a robot process this information as soon as it's collected, and convert it into a form that can be processed by a computer.

As part of their ongoing research, the scientists are collecting baseline information about individual study subjects and analyzing that to identify physiological responses associated with various mental states.

So far, they have been able to combine measures of heart rate, hand sweating and facial muscle activity (brow furrowing or jaw clenching) to program a small mobile robot to respond to information about a person's emotional state.

The way it works right now, according to a statement by the British Medical Associaton, is the robot is first given a task of exploring a room and, as it does so, its processor receives physiological data of a person experiencing high anxiety levels.

The processor instructs the mobile robot to move to a specific location and say, "I sense that you are anxious. Is there anything I can do to help?"

More information

Here's where you can learn more about artificial intelligence.

SOURCE: British Medical Association, news release, Dec. 16, 2002
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