The Research Director and The Research Area
Distinguished Professor, Graduate School of Systems Innovation, Osaka University
Visiting Director, ATR Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories
Name of Research Area : Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction
The focus of robotics research is shifting from industrial robots to robots working in daily situations. The kind of entity with which humans most easily interact is humans. Then, it is important to develop humanoid robots with abilities to interact with humans, and such abilities involve multiple types of senses, language use, and complex body movements.
This research area engages in the development of Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction, and its goal is to develop autonomous social robots that can communicate with multiple humans via various communicative means as humans use them. The relevant means include body and hand movements, facial expressions, gaze, body contact, etc. In order to achieve the goal of developing autonomous robots capable of companionably interacting with and living together with humans, it is necessary to develop certain devices and technologies: (a) surface skin material and internal structure for safe interaction with humans, (b) stable and flexible speech recognition technology, (c) functions of autonomous context- and task-sensitive communication on the basis of a hierarchical model consisting of desire, intention, and behavior including speech acts, and (d) functions of using multiple communicative means to communicate with multiple persons in social contexts.
The research area has two sub-goals: (1) to test and confirm the humanlikeness of robots (i.e., the extent to which robots feel like humans) by comparing them with teleoperated robots and more directly with humans (Total Turing Test), and (2) to offer robots as care support tools for elderly people and people with developmental disabilities. Communication support is equally important as physical support in elderly care. The research area aims at providing communication support for the elderly and education and rehabilitation for the developmentally disabled. More widely, it also aims at providing communication education and learning support for people in general and information and communication service in public facilities.
The research area will ultimately offer newly developed robots as a new test bed for understanding what human is. It is expected that these robots and their interaction with humans in the actual situations will deepen the understanding of important topics in cognitive science and neuroscience, for example, self- and other-recognition, consciousness, and mind.