Home / / UAEU professors to build emotional robot

UAEU professors to build emotional robot

UAE University aims to create robot that can understand and express human emotion

UAEU will host the UAE Symposium on Social Robotics in November.
UAEU will host the UAE Symposium on Social Robotics in November.

Two professors at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) are planning to build an ‘emotional robot', which can understand and express non-verbal communication and emotions to human users.

The project aims to create a robot that will be able to communicate and understand human emotion, without using language, through interaction such as body language.

Dr. Massimiliano Cappuccio, associate professor at UAEU's Department of Philosophy and director of the interdisciplinary cognitive science laboratory, and Jose Berengueres, assistant professor at the university's robotics lab, will lead the project, which is part of the UAEU's ongoing work in robotics.

Dr Cappuccio's team will take charge of the social science part of the project, while Berengueres will handle the technological part.

"The idea is to focus on embodied cognition," explained Dr Cappuccio. "So we want to focus on bodily forms of interaction between human and robot. We won't focus too much on linguistic communication, it is more something that can express a lot of emotions and also interpret your emotions and establish a strong bond with the human user. Imagine something like a pet that uses a lot of touch, gaze and gesture to communicate; no language."

The goal, says Dr. Cappuccio, is to have a robot that can "correctly interpret the human gaze, touch and gesture and produce the same in a meaningful way".

"Our lab will test the interaction and response from the point of view of the humans; Jose's lab will develop the robot prototype based on the results of our experiments, and vice versa our experiments will be designed looking at the responses induced by the robot in the human users," he added.

The University will also jointly host the UAE Symposium On Social Robotics with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in November.

The Symposium, which takes place from 20th-23rd November at UAEU, will focus on the social impact of robotics. The event will involve industry experts, educators and innovators in discussions of the ethical and social implications of robotics, such as codes of conduct, moral and legal obligations towards artificial companions and public policy.

"There is one field of cognitive science that is today very important and that is cognitive robotics ­ - robots that try to approximate (simulate) the human mind," said Dr Cappuccio. "In cognitive robotics, first of all you need to understand how the human mind works ­ - functions like, for example, memory, perception, language processing - and the purpose is to replicate these functions in an artificial agent. And there is a big effort in research and development around this. Of course we are still at the early stage and there are concerns - concerns, for example, about how robots can make decisions regarding ethical issues or decisions that can have ethical implications. The symposium aims to discuss these topics, and explore different approaches and future directions in social robotics."