Scientists have showcased “socially intelligent” robots which they believe will help tackle loneliness.
One, called Pepper, can hug, dance, and give people high-fives. It has been developed as a customer services robot to help in shopping centres. It will greet shoppers and guide them to wherever they want to go.
Pepper’s developers, at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, believe that it could, in future, be deployed in healthcare to support social interaction between elderly individuals, reducing feelings of isolation, encouraging them to play games and reminding them to take medication.
The robot has been on display at the European Robotics Forum 2017 in Edinburgh. Around 800 roboticists from the European Union have gathered to showcase the new generation of robots.
Professor David Lane, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, told Sky News: “Robots are helping us in the way that we work in manufacturing, in hazardous environments and in healthcare.
“There are going to be lots of applications where robots will be working as assistants alongside people.”
Another such robot is Icub, which can see, hear and learn. Fifty-three motors control arm, hand and head movements.
It’s designed to learn human skills with a view to interacting with them emotionally. Its makers think It might one day help assist people with autism or dementia.
Its developer, Dr Katrin Lohan, told Sky News: “The robot changes over the time if it’s existence. It’s unique in terms of its capabilities, it can move, it can talk and it’s very human-like.
“We would like to create a natural interaction interface. When robots are out there in the wild with us, we don’t want to sit behind a computer and programme them.
“Instead, we want them to understand us. We want them to hear what we are saying and just follow our suggestions and actually teach them like we teach our children.”