Olivia, a social robot from Singapore, loves to talk -- and gesticulate with its sleek 6-degrees-of-freedom white plastic arms.
Designed as a research platform for human-robot interaction, Olivia is a creation of the A*STAR Social Robotics Laboratory, or ASORO, part of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research.
The researchers plan to use the robot, unveiled at RoboCup 2010 in June, as a receptionist to greet visitors and provide information, and later, as a personal assistant and companion in people's homes.
Olivia's head has a pair of stereoscopic camera eyes and it can rotate and also tilt up or down. It appears to float over a ring of light, a design that reminds me of EVE, the little flying bot from WALL-E.
A third camera, on the robot's forehead, can zoom in on the speaker's face. Olivia uses software to detect lip movements and determine if a person is speaking to her. It uses eight microphones to locate the source of human speech and turn its face in the direction of the speaker.
So far Olivia can respond to specific keywords and phrases, such as "switch off the lights" or "introduce yourself." But the ASORO researchers, as other robotics groups, want the robot to respond to natural speech. They also plan to program Olivia to display sadness, happiness, and other behaviors to improve communication.
The robot, which is 1.6 meter tall and weighs in at 152 kilograms, is powered by an onboard Core i7 processor. The researchers plan to mount Olivia on a mobile base and upgrade it with new arms with three-finger hands so it can grasp objects.
IEEE Spectrum's Harry Goldstein met Olivia at RoboCup in Singapore and prepared the video below:
Images: IEEE Spectrum and ASORO
Erico Guizzo is the digital product manager at IEEE Spectrum. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.