According to the Taranaki Daily News in New Zealand, the answer is yes. Engineers at Victoria University in Wellington have developed a robot which adapts its behavior according to its emotions. Marvin -- short for 'Mobile Autonomous Robotic Vehicle for Indoor Navigation' -- can express happiness, anger or frustration. As said the lead researcher, 'We've given Marvin the emotion of anger or frustration. If he finds that he's trapped and can't get out, he'll become more agitated and more frustrated in his movements.' This robot could act as a security guard, like it does at Victoria, or as a search-and-rescue agent. So far, the research team has no plans to commercialize it, but read more...
You can see on the left a photograph of Marvin, the autonomous robot which adapts its behavior according to its emotions (Credit: Rob Kitchin, The Dominion Post, New Zealand) You'll find the original version of this photo in "University's robot learns how to be a human" (Glen Johnson and Paul Mulrooney, The Dominion Post, New Zealand, June 21, 2008).
This robotic platform has been developed for some years now under the supervision of engineering professor Dale Carnegie who has several other research interests. Carnegie heads the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Group. For the newest version of MARVIN, he worked with PhD student Christopher Lee-Johnson.
Here are some additional details about Marvin. "Marvin also has human-like mannerisms. When being spoken to, he looks at the person talking and nods, because that's polite. But all manners go out the door when he's interrogating someone he believes shouldn't be in the building. His head projects upwards and outwards and he stands over the person in a menacing manner. 'His eyes will glow red instead of a nice friendly green and his voice becomes far more demanding and strident.' If he's scared, his head will retract and he will appear meek. He's also being educated. Professor Carnegie says Marvin's new emotions are helping him learn and adapt so he can act autonomously."
And here is another excerpt from the Taranaki Daily News article. "'We've given the robot an element of curiosity. If he's making really good progress towards his goal, the robot will actually be happy.' But Marvin doesn't start dancing about in joy, or any such display of pleasure. 'That's the key: the robot is not actually showing emotions, but using emotions to survive.' In other words, Marvin will become happy when he's making good progress towards his goal and will, therefore, continue on his merry way. 'If he's not, he'll become sad, and if he's sad, he's going to try to do something about it. So he'll start exploring new areas, he'll start trying to find ways to get to that goal faster and become happy again.'"
For more information about this project, here is a selection of four documents:
- A Human-Like Semi Autonomous Mobile Security Robot (PDF format, 6 pages, 560 KB, 2004)
- The Development of a Control System for an Autonomous Mobile Robot (PDF format, 183 pages, 2.61 MB, 2004)
- Applications of an Adaptive Hierarchical Mobile Robot Navigation System, a paper presented at the Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation 2007 (PDF format, 7 pages, 384 KB)
- Emotion-based parameter modulation for a hierarchical mobile robot planning and control architecture, a paper presented at the Intelligent Robots and Systems Conference (IROS 2007)
Sources: Virginia Winder, Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, October 27, 2008; and various websites
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