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.

(Krell technology)

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 | | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Input Device ")

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.






Current News

GyroGlove Idea For Parkinson's Was Suggested In 1926
'The gyroscope was revolving at the rate of three thousand revolutions a minute, and the slight humming was hardly noticeable...'

Otto Self-Driving Truck Kit Delivers Budweiser Beer
'Trucks gulped packages and scurried like beetles...'

Airnest Drone Flight Logging Tool
'He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt.'

Untethered Drone Gets Wireless Power
'We'll use my 'broomstick'.'

ESA Plans Akon Projectile To Europa ala Jules Verne
'... might [it] not be possible to project a shot up to the moon?'

Transparent OLED TV By Panasonic
It's the look of things to come.

Shape-Memory Metal Transforms Millions Of Times
'Annealed in any shape for a time, and codified, the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Advertising Drones Hover Over Traffic In Mexico
'Blurbflies are allowd to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct...'

How Can Amazon Patent A Voice-Controlled Drone?
''Tight mid-shot...' he told it.'

'North Sense' Wearable Piercing From Cyborg Nest
'The fingers opened from the many-scaled stellarimeter grafted onto his palm.'

proCover Smart Sock Prosthetic Limb Enhancement
'Series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce...'

Robots And AIs Will Replace Humans At 7 Percent Of U.S. Jobs
'And Mike took on endless new jobs.'

Human Doctors Still Better Than Computers
'Nowadays surgery was normally done by autodocs...'

FEDOR Humanoid Robot To Join Russians In Space
Am enjoying view of Russian robot.

BMW Self-Balancing Motorcycle - Never Put Feet On Road
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'

MicroTug Is A Micro Robot Beast
'And it had been dragging something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.