Everyday objects can be animated to improve their functionalities and to provide a more interesting environment. Moreover, it is interesting to explore new interaction situations. Proper design of shape and interaction is needed to obtain interesting objects. Emotional expression is an interesting aspect to explore.
We have developed a couple of emotional trash bins, going around to invite to trash selected materials by using the lid movements and sounds, a coat-hanger (IGHOR), welcoming people entering and asking to have their coats, showing sadness if they keep it on, a naughty fan, coming close and suddenly investing the person with an air flow, a naughty money saver that has to be chased to give it money, a kind of pillow that react with sounds to the way it is touched.
Robots can be used as artistic media, able to perform and interact with people in artistic representations.
We have developed the first steps that will bring to the development of an autonomous robotic actor, able to participate to a public representation either with a defined role and script, or, as a final goal, as an Improv actor able to adapt the performance to external stimuli. For the moment we have a developed a robot that is able to move in classical scenes (e.g. the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet) selecting the proper emotional expressions for the situation, and a framework to define emotional expressions according to the social setting among characters, and the situation. The final step to obtain a robotic actor to play scripted scenes is under development.
Interactive robotic art
Robots can have different shapes and play different roles in interactive artistic performances. We are exploiting materials like nets, polyethilene sheets, polyurethane foams and other materials to obtain shapes interesting to move in interactive exhibits. Emotional expression is also in this area, an interesting feature to explore.
ALMA (Ageing Without Losing Mobility and Autonomy) is a European project focused on supporting the autonomous mobility, navigation, and orientation of the mobility-impaired person (elderly and/or temporarily or permanently disabled person).
The ALMA system is a modular combination of advanced hardware and software technologies into an integrated and modular cost-effective system. AIRLab contributed to ALMA with its Personal Mobility Kit.
Robots playing with people in physically interactive games exploit both the abilities requited to autonomous robots (such as: mapping, perception, navigation, planning, …), but also those required to appear as effective players and good play companions, involving the players in challenging and satisfactory games, matching their ability.
We have developed many games gradually exploring different facets of the development of games hwere a player is an autonomous robot, from the perception and actuation abilities needed to play following the game rules, while guaranteeing the safety of the players, to timing in different aspects, to the characteristics of the robot (e.g., shape, speed, materials, sensors…), to involvement and adaptation to the skill of the player, either intrinsic or learned while playing.
A selection of the developed games is listed here below.
Benchmarking means objectively measuring the performance of a robot when executing a task. Being able to benchmark robot systems is necessary to compare their performance, and thus to better understand their strenghts and weaknesses. Both research and industry need this to progress.
However, when dealing with autonomous agents benchmarking is tricky. How to devise testing procedures that yield objective results? What metrics capture the key points of the robot performance? How can robots that perform the same complex action differently be compared?
AIRLab has been working on these issues for a long time, accumulating experience in both methodology and real-world benchmark design, setup and execution.
Over the years, we participated -and are participating- to many European projects about robot benchmarking, including RAWSEEDS (FP6), RoCKIn (FP7), RockEU2 (H2020), RobMoSys (H2020), EUROBENCH (H2020), SciRoc (H2020), METRICS (H2020).
i.Drive is an interdepartmental laboratory where AIRLab is the technology provider for robotics.
The laboratory aims at developing inter-disciplinary proficiency required for analysis and modelling of behavioral aspects due to the interaction between driver, vehicle, infrastructure, and environment through:
A fixed structural component based on a virtual realty simulator aimed at the ex-ante test of expected behavioral models, the joined optimization of vehicle and road infrastructure, the increase of ex-post and in-itinere statistical significance ofexperiments carried out on roads;
A mobile component based on an instrumented vehicle aimed at measuring on field performance and reactions of drivers in different driving conditions and at collecting environmental data to be reproduced ex-post by simulation.
MADROB (Modular Active Door for RObot Benchmarking) and BEAST (Benchmark-Enabling Active Shopping Trolley) are benchmarks for autonomous robots aimed at measuring their capabilities and performance when dealing with devices that are common in human environments.
MADROB is focused on opening doors; BEAST considers the problem of pushing a shopping trolley. Both make use of a device with the same features of its real counterpart, fitted with sensors (to assess the actions of the robots on it: e.g., force applied to the handle of the door, precision in following a trajectory with the cart) and actuators (to introduce disturbances simulating real-world phenomena: e.g., wind pushing the door panel, stone under the trolley’s wheel).
Beyond the hardware and software, MADROB and BEAST also comprise procedures and performance metrics that enable objective evaluation of the performance of robots, as well as comparisons between different robots and between a robots and humans.
The PMK is an add-on for commercial electric wheelchairs that uses robotic technology to provide two new functionalities:
autonomous driving, where the user only has to select her goal and the PMK drives the wheelchair safely to destination;
assisted driving, where the user is in charge of driving and the PMK only intervenes to ensure safety (e.g., slowing down to avoid a collision with a child jumping in front of the wheelchair) or provide help in difficult maneuvers (e.g., while approaching doorways).
The PMK has been developed with the collaboration of disabled people. Its design and implementation are focused on the principle of shared autonomy: the robotic part of the wheelchair only intervenes when this actually makes the user feel more empowered by this intervention, augmenting the user’s autonomy and independence.
This is an example of collaboration between AIRLab and industry for the development of innovative products. In this case, the product is a device for the assisted transportation of hospital beds (with patients) employing robot technology for flexible movement in tight spaces and safety.
This project, a collaboration between AIRLab, Università di Milano – Bicocca and Info Solution SpA financed by Regione Lombardia, led to the development of international patents and a commercial product (BeN).