Human-robot interaction in the spotlight

Life-size robots interacted with guests at the launch of Australasia’s first cross-disciplinary robotics laboratory at the College of Fine Arts. VIDEO

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Geminoid F with Prof Jill Bennett, NIEA Director

Life-size robots will interact with guests at the launch of Australasia’s first cross-disciplinary robotics laboratory.

The Creative Robotics Lab (CRL), based at UNSW’s College of Fine Arts, is a groundbreaking new centre combining art, social science and engineering to develop the appearance, behaviour and sociability of robots.

The CRL is part of UNSW’s National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), a dynamic facility encompassing a range of research centres, labs and galleries.

The launch will provide the first Australian opportunity for guests to interact with the life-like Japanese android robot Geminoid F, created by Professor Yoshio Matsumoto (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan). The 165cm female robot blinks, responds to eye contact and recognises body language.

Also on site is Diamandini, a 155cm humanoid robot resembling a life-size Victorian doll who responds to body language, created by CRL director Associate Professor Mari Velonaki and Associate Professor David Rye (Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney). At the 2012 London Design Festival, 28,000 spectators interacted with Diamandini at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her development was funded by an Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship.

Professor Mari Velonaki said the Centre aims to develop robotic forms that enable intuitive interaction with people.

“Robots are the way of the future. This doesn’t mean they will replace humans but they need to know how to respond to us,” said Professor Velonaki. “We are interested in creating robots that respond spontaneously and naturally so that our interactions with them are more meaningful.”

Researchers at the CRL use temperature and vibration sensors and thermal cameras to measure robotic responses to human touch, and their expertise in touch transmission and artificial skin development will help bring robots to their final interactive phase. Future applications could include robots assisting patients in hospital environments.

The CRL will work in conjunction with UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney, Stanford University and Tokyo University.

COFA Dean Professor Ross Harley said the CRL emphasises the College’s commitment to creativity and innovation.

"Artists have a responsibility to ask questions and to make works that challenge our understanding of what it means to be human, and for that matter, what it means to be a robot."

The CRL will be officially opened by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane.

Geminoid F and Diamandini will interact with visitors at the Creative Robotics Lab, COFA (G Block, Greens Rd, Paddington) today, 10 September, 11am-1pm.
Associate Professor Mari Velonaki and Professor Yoshio Matsumoto will be available for interview. Images and video available on request.

Media contact: Fran Strachan| | 9385 8732 | 04294 16070

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Geminoid F with Prof Jill Bennett, NIEA Director

COFA's Creative Robotics Lab introduces you to Geminoid F