Meet Nadine, the "Emotionally Intelligent" Robot That Looks Like a Cylon

Tuesday, 08 March 2016 - 9:56AM
Artificial Intelligence
Robotics
Weird Science
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 - 9:56AM
Meet Nadine, the "Emotionally Intelligent" Robot That Looks Like a Cylon
Researchers in Singapore have unveiled an "emotionally intelligent" companion robot named Nadine, and she's so close to looking like a human, she's at the peak of the uncanny valley:



Nadine, who was designed as a doppelganger of her creator, Nadia Thalmann of Nanyang Technological University, looks a whole lot like a human being (but with strangely large hands). According to a statement from the university, she has soft skin, "flowing hair," and the ability to remember your name after you've met. She can smile, carry on a conversation, remember past conversations, shake your hand, wave goodbye, etc. When asked her job, she says, "I am a social companion, I can speak of emotions and I can recognize people."

As we see in the video, she's relatively realistic compared to past robots, but I still irrationally despise her. Her blank stare between (fairly fluid) facial expressions gives me the creeps like no other, but that probably means we're getting very close to a humanlike robot. Once a robot gets past the peak of the uncanny valley, it will look somewhat like a human, which will make them much less eerie when interacting with human beings. They'll be like the cylons in Battlestar Galactica, or the synths in Humans.

Opening quote
"Over the past four years, our team at [Nanyang Technological University] have been fostering cross-disciplinary research in social robotics technologies," said Thalmann, "to transform a virtual human, from within a computer, into a physical being that is able to observe and interact with other humans."
Closing quote

It's unclear exactly how advanced the actual artificial intelligence is, or whether she can just simulate the actions of an emotional being. But the university claims that she actually has her own emotions:

Opening quote
"Unlike conventional robots, Nadine has her own personality, mood and emotions. She can be happy or sad, depending on the conversation."
Closing quote

If this were actually true, it would probably be a much bigger deal in the scientific and AI communities, but Thalmann envisions actual emotional robots in our future, like C-3PO.

Opening quote
"This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening," said Thalmann. "So in future, these socially intelligent robots could be like C–3PO… with knowledge of language and etiquette."
Closing quote

Currently, the robot is working as a receptionist at the university, which makes sense, as its social and memory capabilities would come in handy (although it's frustrating that these clerical and caretaking robots are predominantly female). But her creators say that in the future, she would be most helpful as a companion robot for the elderly:

Opening quote
"As countries worldwide face challenges of an ageing population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future," said Thalmann.
Closing quote

For now, I would be f*cking terrified if this thing were taking care of me. But Thalmann is right that there is a growing need for robots that can provide companionship and caretaking services, so maybe Nadine will be a friend to the elderly in the future.

Via Science Alert

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