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Swedish Robot Conquers the World

The robot head turns towards you when you talk, look you in the eye and can provide answers to speech. Now, the social robot Furhat moved into the development lab at Disney and Toyota. Behind the trend is a researcher at KTH.

He was quick to venture out into the world. In its first year, 2011, had robot head Furhat show off their skills at the London Science Museum and on the British television channel BBC. There, he demonstrated his ability to turn towards the person speaking and delivering a response with vivid facial expressions and bright lip movements. He is the only robot in the world that can do it.

Swedish robot

Behind the social and talkative robot is Gabriel Skantze and his colleagues at the Department of Speech, Music and Hearing at KTH. This research is on how to build technical systems that can handle a dialogue with people.

– It requires that you take into account more than just speech. Even face and gestures play a significant role, says Gabriel Skantze, a researcher at KTH.

The solution was a three-dimensional mesh in the shape of a face like an animation projected on. By the mask fits correctly creates the illusion of face “live.” The animation comes from a projector that sits on the neck. There is also the servo motors allows the turning head. In a box under the head has cameras and the computer with all the software stored.

– It’s about a bunch of systems. The speech should be interpreted, translated into text to synthesized speech and made into a facial animation. And so we have, we have all the input from the cameras.

As the robot head shown up at the international robotic conferences, more and more research lab wanted to buy the head and development platform. Two years ago the company was established therefore Furhat around the technology. Gabriel Skantze is a founding member.

Two copies of the robot skull are today on Disney’s research laboratories in the United States. The idea is that they will be used to develop new missile systems to film the giant theme parks. There are already lots of robots, but they checked all the operators.

Recently, a collaboration with Toyota Robotics, which has also sent a person to KTH to learn to use the tool.

– They develop among other robots that training support for seniors with incipient dementia. The idea is to develop a social robot that older people can talk old memories, while the system can make test signals when the memory is getting worse, says Gabriel Skantze.

While Honda’s robot team wants to buy a robot head and hire one of the Ph.D. students at KTH for six months.

– The system has also aroused great interest among teachers who believe that it can play a significant role as an extra teacher or plug friend.

Other possible areas are malls where the robot could replace the information board or counter.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Department of the challenge to make the robots even better to be able to follow and understand a conversation. And not least realize when he turns to speak in the case, several people involved in the discussion.

– Taking turns and three-way calling are complicated things, says Gabriel Skantze.

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