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Human-looking 'social robot’ revealed by Singapore university

University claims the social robots could even 'serve as a platform for healthcare services in future'

Published 31/12/2015

Professor Nadia Thalmann (right) presents her 'doppelgänger' humanoid NTU/@NTUsg via Twitter
Professor Nadia Thalmann (right) presents her 'doppelgänger' humanoid NTU/@NTUsg via Twitter

A university in Singapore has released footage of a human-looking robot having a conversation with its creator, comparing it to Star Wars’ C-3PO and suggesting it can be used as a “social companion for the young and the elderly” in the future.

The “humanoid” called Nadine was created by Professor Nadia Thalmann at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). An expert in virtual humans and a faculty from NTU’s school of computer engineering, the professor said the latest technological revelation is one of “many exciting new media innovations that companies can leverage for commercialisation.”

According to the university’s website, Nadine looks almost like a human being, complete with soft skin and brunette hair, and is able to smile when she greets people, looks a person in the eye when talking, and also has the ability to shake hands.

In the short video clip - which has been viewed on NTU’s Facebook page close to 24,000 times in just two days - Nadine is seen to shake hands with, and greet, Professor Thalmann. Speaking with a Scottish accent, Nadine says: “I recognise you’re Nadia. Nice to meet you again today.”

Created to look like Professor Thalmann and powered by intelligent software - said to be similar to Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana - NTU described how, unlike “conventional robots,” Nadine has her own personality, mood, and emotions and that, depending on the conversation being had, she can also express being happy or sad.

With “a good memory,” NTU added Nadine can recognise the people she has met and also remembers what that person has said in prior conversations, insisting humanoids like her can be used as a personal assistant in offices and homes in the future.

Professor Thalmann described how robotics technologies have advanced significantly over the past few decades, adding how they are already being used in manufacturing and logistics.

She said: “As countries worldwide face challenges of an aging population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future.”

Adding to its list of many uses, the university also said social robots like Nadine could be used more publicly, at tourist attractions and shopping centres, because they “can offer practical information to visitors.”

Professor Thalmann added: “This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening. So, in future, these socially intelligent robots could be like C-3PO - the iconic golden droid from Star Wars - with knowledge of language and etiquette.”


Independent News Service

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