Roomba Detects Emotions Like HAL-9000
A specially-equipped Roomba robot vacuum cleaner can now sense human emotions. University of Calgary researchers published their results in a paper titled "Using Bio-electrical Signals to Influence the Social
Behaviours of Domesticated Robots."
(NIA headband helps Roomba infer stress level)
Using an OCZ NIA headband to capture bioelectric signals from the forehead of a human user, the system collects this data and then infers stress from muscle tension readings. Their control software reinterprets natural muscle tension as estimating the user's stress level; the more muscle tension, the more stress is inferred.
Two distinct robotic behaviours corresponding to two extreme
emotional states, either relaxed or stressed, are triggered when the stress reading reach a threshold. Robot actions are then influenced by these stress readings. When a person shows high stress (~levels 3 & 4), the robot enters its cleaning mode but moves away from the user so as not annoy them. When a person is relaxed (~level 1), the robot (if cleaning) approaches the person and then stops, simulating a pet sitting next to its owner. If the reading is in between these two levels, the robot continues operating in its current mode until the stress reading reaches a threshold.
The unique feature of this system is that the robot's behavior is controlled by human emotion rather than by some sort of explicit commands.
I can think of several science-fictional predecessors to this achievement. The HAL-9000 system from 2001: A Space Odyssey was able to tell whether or not the human astronauts were up to the task of making decisions by detecting the amount of stress in voice samples. Here is the famous exchange between Dave Bowman and the HAL-9000 (as found in the novel):
"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."
"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"
"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."
"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."
"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you." (Read more about HAL-9000.)
Another, even more sinister, example can be found in the use of Krell technology in the classic 1956 film Forbidden Planet. In the movie, Dr. Morbius unconsciously uses Krell machinery when sleeping.
The unthinkably powerful Krell technologies act upon his unconscious emotional cues, and destroy his enemies.
Suppose a young man of whom I do not approve comes over to take my teenage daughter out on a date. I hate to think of what a sufficiently stressed person might make a Roomba do...
From Using Bio-electrical Signals to Influence the Social
Behaviours of Domesticated Robots (pdf) via Technology Review.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/19/2009)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Tongue Mouse Created By Valve Engineer
'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'- Alfred Bester, 1956.
Skinput Uses Your Skin As An Input Device
Nifty input technology takes advantage of your biggest organ to provide you with easy input.
AcceleGlove Open-Source Data Glove
This device was developed at great expense by your government, and now you can have one at a very reasonable price; developers use Java to program it.
Roomba Detects Emotions Like HAL-9000
Just wait until this device is used to control more powerful technology. Let sleeping Krell lie, I say.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Harvard's Robobees Now 'Fly' Underwater
'...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner.'
ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...'
Ultralight Origami Crane UAV Flexes Its Wings
'They began to flex their wings.'
UM Solar Car Now Also With IBM Research Power
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
Robot-Based Trash Collection
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there...'
Warrior Web Exoskeleton For Soldiers Undergo Tests
'The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it...'
Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
'It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway.'
Light Molecules (And Maybe Light Sabers, Someday)
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'
Telepresence In The Office
'That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely... under direct control.'
Piper, Google's 2 Billion Line Code Repository, Needs A Cool Display
'The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall...'
WEpod Driverless Vehicle On The Netherlands Roads
'The car moved smoothly away. Mirelly-Lyra half relaxed; she was not steering.'
Computer Predicts Psychosis Better Than Psychiatrists
'The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile...'
Robot Evolution Needs Mass Extinction Events
'It was small, one of the baby ones.'
Lab-Grown Kidneys Implanted Successfully - In Animals
'For a while your colonists will have to come up to the Hospital to get treatment with the ramrobot symbiots...'
Korean Lab Ready To Clone Your Dog
Man's best friend, cloned.
DARPA NeuroTech Hand With Natural Sensation
'Take care, sir.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories