Posted by: robotnews | April 4, 2006

AIBO Robots



Most of you must have heard about Sony AIBO, but I guess not many know what its features are and the technology used to implement it. So what exactly does AIBO stand for? Basically it just stands for Artificial Intelligence roBOt, or simply “companion” in Japanese.

Just like us humans, it goes through life cycle stages of an infant, child, teen and adult. The rate at which it grows up is dependent on the amount of interaction that we have with it. The greater the amount of the interactions, the faster it grows up and the converse is true.

Behaviours
This new pet has six different emotional states and some instincts that are preprogrammed into its brain. Some of the emotional states include happiness, dislike, anger, love, sadness and surprise and instincts such as fear, search, movement and recharge. The emotions that are exhibited by it have different degrees, for instance, it will express its emotional state through a series of actions such as wagging his tail and changing the colour or shape of its eyes, etc. In addition, it acts to fulfill desires that are created by its instincts. This means that if we, as the pet owners, fulfill what it wants, its joy level will rise. Otherwise, it might get angry or sad over the issue. So does it not behave like a child! On top of these, its personality and growth are greatly influenced by how we react to its emotional expressions. All these emotions and instincts that are expressed by it are dependent on the nervous system that has been planted in it. And when it is “hungry”, it will exhibit certain behaviours so that the owner will know that it is time to recharge the battery.

Technology
AIBO is powered by battery and it acts like a fully autonomous robot where decisions for its own actions and behaviour are made independently. This is made possible with the nervous system that is made up of integrated circuitry which results in it being a fully cognizant, sensing, loving and communicate companion. There are two types of softwares that are used in the AIBO and these are available separately. The first software, Life AIBOware allows AIBO to be raised from a puppy to a fully grown up adult while it goes through the various development stages based on the interaction that the owner has with it. The second software, Explorer AIBOware is used when the owner wants it to understand the 100 voice commands though it may not necessarily obey the given commands.

AIBO is a four-legged robot has 20 motorized joints which allow its movements to be rather realistic. In addition, the 20 degrees of freedom that it possesses allows it to perform trick such as wagging its tail and flapping its ears just like a real dog. It behaves like a real puppy as it initially starts to move wobbly but will learn to balance itself as it grows up.

AIBO has various senses such as touch, hearing and sight. The sense of touch on his head, chin and back allows it to respond accordingly to how the owner treats it such a friendly pat or a disciplining tap. The built-in stereo microphones on its ears which allows it to recognize the owner’s instructions and responds to it since it learns the name the owner gives it. In addition, it will copy the sound of the owner’s words and reply with an electronic tonal language. However, an infant can only recognize only a limited set of vocabulary. But as it matures, it can recognize more words. The camera on its head allows it to recognize its surrounding at all times. It has three sensors – temperature, infrared distance and acceleration – to allow it to adapt to its surroundings at all times.

In terms of application domains, making use of the features that the AIBO has, a RoboCup autonomous soccer competition had been held. This involves a team of programmed AIBO robots to play autonomous soccer games against other competitors.

In retrospect, it brings much companion for us humans as it acts like a real dog. This AIBO also helps to inculcate the correct values to children that they should not be nasty to animals as it will react accordingly to how we humans treat it. In addition, it also helps one to learn how to take care of a pet so as to prepare them if they want to keep a real one in the future.

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Responses

  1. Oh Ai Ni Irene U025732N

    I find the voice recognition technology adopted in this robotic dog intriguing. It will take quite a bit of artificial intelligence programming to recognize human speech. According to the article, the robotic dog can respond to its name when it is being called. But what if it is not the owner who called it, will be still be able to recognize his name, since the voice pattern is different?

    Furthermore another interestig point is that it can ‘sense’ when it is being praised. Again, it takes a lot of artificial intelligence and software to analyse voice, and to determine whether it is a praise or a scolding, by analysing sound characteristics such as amplitude and frequency components. I do wonder what is the percentage of error involved here.

  2. Pang Sze Yong u0204779

    I personally feel that having a robot dog would not teach children how to treat a real dog with proper care and concern. Such a learning experience can only be taught by parents (or equivalent). Simply interacting with a robot dog does not mean that you will learn to respect life.

    How many of us, have as children fooled around with insects such as ants and spiders and felt no guilt nor remorse? Perhaps some of us have also squashed snails and found it fun.

    It is our parents (or equivalent) that teach us that we should not have done all these things to those creatures and also to all other creatures.

    AIBO however is a robot, technically it has no life of its own no matter how much intelligence we can program into it. Hence it is not the same as a real dog. If AIBO is made with a reset button that will cause it to lose all its acquired memory and become a puppy again, the situation could become even worse. Curious buyers would experiment treating AIBO in different ways to see how it matures with each different way of treatment.

  3. Chung Chan Lee U025852E

    i learn that voice recognition of robot can be made through Multilayer perceptrons (MLP)it is a learning process where the system manage to learn by adjusting the weight of each nodes.

    of course it is not so simple lar, what i read is a JOURNAL i run through when i am searching for material for my Introduction for Neural and Fuzzy Network Project, the structure of the MLP is much more complicated to improve the efficiency, but still it is a MLP.

    Think GA can be used to implement that too…… can imagine how complex the system will be.

  4. Despite the efforts by the researchers to make the Sony AIBO as close as possible to a real dog, I still find something amiss. There is something that the Sony AIBO can never resemble a real dog. For instance, a real dog need to eat and drink, but don’t think one need to feed the Sony AIBO. A real dog will die as it grow old, but i don’t think the Sony AIBO will ever die right?

    Another point is that, the Sony AIBO can only do task and response in a way that is being preprogrammed by the programmer. A real dog probably can do much more than that, for instance, in the event of danger, a real dog will be willing to sacrify its life to protect its master. I seriously don’t think the Sony AIBO can achieve such high level of intelligence.

  5. U0205231 Lim Xiaoping

    I also agree that there are many ways in which a robotic dog can not replace a real dog. Despite that, it is still undeniable that AIBO is a rather amazing piece of technology and it can possibly serve as a platform to building even better and more powerful robots. As mentioned in the Wikipedia website, quite a number of applications have been developed by modifying AIBO.

    For instance, there have been much research into using “robotic pets” in robot-therapy sessions in hospitals and senior citizens’ homes. These sessions are similar to pet-therapy where robots are seen not simply as helpers, carrying out simple chores for the user but serves as companions. In the gadget-loving Japan, professor Toshiyo Tamura of the National Institute for Longevity Sciences has experimented with AIBO for simulating and comforting elderly patients. From the trial robot-therapy sessions, he observed that, “Playing with the robots reduces problem behavior, and they (elderly users) gain a certain peace of mind.”

    Many questions still remain regarding robot-human interactions. Personally I do feel that the idea of being emtionally attached to a robot is rather unnerving. There is a urgent need for more research into the these areas.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2004-04-11-robot-helpers_x.htm

  6. What i find most interesting is, that the production and development of such kind of toys is obviously very unprofitable, since SONY announced at the end of 2005 that they will stop the entire AIBO-production.
    So probably those of you who felt that such a “thing” cannot replace a real animal and will hardly be accepted as a playfellow were right. Just imagine the high amount of money which has been invested in its development.
    And at the end of the day a huge company like SONY decides to stop the entire production.
    Doubts on these tools are justifiable !!!

  7. u0204635 Tan Pei-En

    I think that for voice recognition, much of existing technology can be used. Other than MLPs, I think that stochastic models like Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) are generally used for speech recognition. A lot of training of the algorithm is needed, however, because different humans speak differently. But since the AIBO is supposed to take time to learn, that is presumably not too big a problem.

    As to knowing when it is praised or blamed, I think that that is much much more difficult. I suspect that the AIBO would not be able to tell on many occasions, especially if there are no indicators such as tone of voice, key words, and so on. The complexity of human language is staggering. For example, I can insult someone by saying nice words – they just have to be sarcastic. If the AIBO does something undesirable, the owner may get irritated and give a sarcastic remark like “How clever!”, and the ‘dog’ might take it to be praise intead of blame.

    Also, I think that the flip side of having the dog display emotional behavior is that it may lead to a trivialisation of human emotions. This is because parents will not treat the AIBO as a real emotional entity while children are more likely to, given their penchant for imagination and playacting. As such, the parents would more likely disregard the emotional signs displayed by the dog, knowing that the robot does not really FEEL those emotions. Children, however, project their own emotions onto the dog, and as a result, feel that it feels something. When they see that these emotions, which they perceive to be real, are disregarded or ignored by parents, they will feel that emotions are not supposed to be important after all. This will lead to them being less ready to express their feelings as well as emphatize with the feelings of others.

  8. u0204982 Wang Huiwen Karen

    I do not think that such a robot dog would be able to prepare a person to keep a real pet. A robot dog would not have pass motion problem which is a hassle to pet owners. I personally prefer furry dogs, without which a robot dog does not seem appealing. However, this robot dog will prove to be attractive to pet lovers who like dogs but are allergic to dog fur.


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