Can humans and robots socialize?

A child playing with an intelligent robot can easily grow fond of it and... vice versa. At ISTC the Speech and Multimodal Communication Laboratory (SMCL) is participating in the European Project ALIZ-E, aiming at establishing any-depth social relationships between humans and robots. 

Moving human-robot interaction from the range of minutes to the range of days: at ISTC the Speech and Multimodal Communication Laboratory (SMCL) is working within the European Project ALIZ-E to reach this aim. Currently most robots only operate in the “here and now”, while this project is trying to study cognitive robots capable of maintaining credible affective interactions with humans over an extended period of time.

The protagonists are children: their open and imaginative response to artificial creatures encourages promising applications.

ALIZ-E began in April 2010 and involves partners from the UK, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France and Italy. One of its central scientific goals is implementing memory systems to make robots able to store and recall experiences, to learn from them and to adapt their social behaviour on the basis of past skills.

Another key aspect of ALIZ-E understands emotions in children-robot relationship. Robots should be able to interpret the emotional content of the interaction, giving appropriate signals back to the child. Non-verbal behaviour therefore plays an important role and it must be tightly connected with verbal communication.

SMCL is focusing exactly on this part, applying its research on emotional speech in order to contribute to the realistic setting where children and robots interact. In fact the ALIZ-E project will take robots out of the laboratories, putting them to the test in a health education role. Robots will play with young diabetic patients in the pediatric department of San Raffaele Hospital in Milan: socialization is therefore combined with possible therapeutic benefits.


Contact: Piero Cosi

ISTC Group: Speech and Multimodal Communication Laboratory

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