Mark Honigsbaum of The Guardian recently wrote, "In a darkened robotics laboratory in Lyon, Peter Dominey and Stéphane Lallée are playing a game with a cute-looking humanoid called iCub. The game is Toybox and the object is to uncover a toy trumpet that Lallée has just moved from a box to iCub's right. For a human three-year-old such a game is child's play, but until now it has been beyond the scope of most machined intelligences. Not for iCub however. 'I will put box on the right,' says iCub, making sure it has understood Lallée's instructions. 'You will put the toy on the left. I will put the box on the middle'. 'Game over,' says Lallée abruptly. iCub tilts its head towards Lallée, fixing him with its large black eyes. If you did not know better you would think iCub was disappointed. 'Check on my internal state. That was pretty fun. We keep playing this game'."
He continues, "Part of the Chris project – short for Co-operative Human Robot Interactive Systems – iCub is at the vanguard of a new generation of social robots that is fast changing perceptions of what human-robot interactions will look like in the future. For iCub isn't just any old robot. Measuring 93cm, it is a fully fledged humanoid 'child' robot equipped with sophisticated motor skills and sense abilities, including vision, sound, touch, balance and proprioception – the ability to sense the position of its arms and body in space. These facilities enable iCub to crawl on all fours, grasp and manipulate balls and other objects and turn its head so as to follow gestures or direct its gaze."
Honigsbaum goes on, "These days you can hardly open a newspaper or switch on the TV without being confronted with the latest robotic advance. From self-steering vacuum-cleaning robots such as Roomba (£379.95 from John Lewis) to cyborg-style robot suits (such as HAL) and the cruise control in your BMW, suddenly robots are everywhere, invading our offices and homes and, it seems, making increasing demands on our emotional lives."
Image: Courtesy Chris Project