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Photos: Robots learn how to get friendly with humans

Are we human or are we robot?
By Tim Ferguson, Contributor on
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Are we human or are we robot?

Berti - which stands for Bristol Elumotion Robotic Torso 1 - can produce numerous human-like gestures as it speaks to create the impression of a conversation.

The robot has been jointly developed by Bristol Robotics Lab and robotic hardware developer Elumotion, after the former decided it wanted to get more involved with humanoid robotics.

Berti has been on display at London's Science Museum this week and silicon.com went along to meet him.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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The Elumotion team designed and built the hands, limbs and body of Berti to mirror nature. Elumotion co-founder, Craig Fletcher, told silicon.com it's the most complex control system the company has developed.

The specially designed hands (above) can move in several different ways - its thumb can move separately from the fingers, for example - which together with the arm can accurately portray the movements of a human being.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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When a user puts on a data glove, left, the sensor in the centre transmits their hand movements to Berti - allowing the robot to mimic them as they happen.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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Berti can also be set up to play the game paper, scissors, stone with a human. It randomly generates the three hand shapes for the game and by using a range of sensors is able to tell whether it's won, lost or drawn the contest. In this case, Berti won.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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Here you can see Berti making a presentation. Using a pre-programmed computer voice, the robot is able to relate its hand and arm gestures to the words it's saying.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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Also on show at the Science Museum was Erwin (emotional robot with intelligent networks), a robot aimed at putting a face to robotics.

Developed by the computer science department at the University of Hertfordshire, Erwin is able to play a version of peek-a-boo. Here it's the brown tubes that form a frown as the robot's camera can't detect a human face.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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But when the robot can see a human face it smiles, as it's doing here.

Erwin is part of the Felix Growing project, which is aimed at making robots appear more human so they can be successfully integrated into homes and businesses in the future.

Dr John Murray from the University of Hertfordshire told silicon.com the technology could also be used to help autistic children develop their ability to relate to the others more effectively.

The robot also has microphones which can react to a human voice and can even distinguish between different speakers.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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This robot nursery is also a University of Hertfordshire project. The idea is for a robot - in this case a dog - to explore its surroundings and react to what it discovers.

The robot can make out certain objects by comparing them to images stored on it. When it fails to discern something, it becomes 'distressed', indicated by a red light appearing on its head.

It can then be reassured by someone stroking it - or swiping a sensor on its back.

The robot is also able to recognise human faces and will react by wagging its tail and ears if it sees someone.

Photo credit: Tim Ferguson/silicon.com

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