Tag Archives: MARC

Robot MARC opens new lab at The Priory Academy LSST

P1020640A 3D-printed robot has performed the official opening ceremony of a new robotics lab at The Priory Academy LSST in Lincoln.

MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion) from the University of Lincoln was the VIP guest who cut the ribbon – literally – on the school’s £110,000 facility.

MARC was created by Computer Science lecturer Dr John Murray for research into Human-Robot interaction.

Year 7 student Hannah Hemlin activated a pre-set computer programme and the obliging android did the rest, to the applause of pupils, staff and scientists from the university.

The robotics lab has been part-funded by a grant from the Wolfson Foundation, a charity which supports excellence in science and education. The new room boasts 15 high-spec computers, a 3D printer and a laser printer and will be used by Sixth Form engineering students at the academy.

Mr Robin Jones, Head of Technology at The Priory, said: “The new lab will be a fantastic asset for the school. The interest and excitement among students has been phenomenal and it’s wonderful to be able to offer these opportunities in the very latest technology.”

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Guests of honour Dr David Cobham, Head of the School of Computer Science at the university, and Professor Tom Duckett, who leads its robotics research centre, answered questions at a Year 8 assembly before also taking part in a workshop with Sixth Formers.

Dr Cobham said: “We are delighted to be opening the new robotics laboratory at The Priory Academy LSST. The computing and robotics industries are developing at an extremely rapid pace, so it is wonderful to see that school pupils in Lincolnshire have access to such important facilities to support their education.”

Professor Duckett added: “The research carried out by students and academics from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science is ground-breaking. From medical imaging to social computing and companion robots, our research specialisms are focussed on improving people’s quality of life, and we enjoy giving students the opportunity to take part in this exciting work.”

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How perfect is too perfect?

MARC the 3D printed robot
MARC the 3D printed robot
Research reveals robot flaws are key to interacting with humans.

Humans are less likely to form successful working relationships with interactive robots if they are programmed to be too perfect.

Interactive or ‘companion’ robots are increasingly used to support caregivers for elderly people and for children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder, yet by programming their behaviour to become more intelligent we could in fact be creating barriers to long-term human-robot relationships, the research suggests.

Conducted by robotics experts from the University of Lincoln, UK, the study found that a person is much more likely to warm to an interactive robot if it shows human-like ‘cognitive biases’ – deviations in judgement which form our individual characteristics and personalities, complete with errors and imperfections.The investigation was conducted by PhD researcher Mriganka Biswas and overseen by Dr John Murray from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science. Their findings were presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference in Hamburg in October 2015.

Mriganka said: “Our research explores how we can make a robot’s interactive behaviour more familiar to humans, by introducing imperfections such as judgemental mistakes, wrong assumptions, expressing tiredness or boredom, or getting overexcited. By developing these cognitive biases in the robots – and in turn making them as imperfect as humans – we have shown that flaws in their ‘characters’ help humans to understand, relate to and interact with the robots more easily.”

Currently most human-robot interaction is based on a set of well-ordered and structured rules and behaviours. However the Lincoln academics used a technique new to robotics research, which involved introducing the cognitive biases ‘misattribution of memory’ and ‘empathy gap’ – which traditionally play a significant role in human interactions and relationships – to two different robots.

The investigation involved Dr Murray’s robot ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network), which has the ability to express five basic emotions, and Keepon, a small yellow robot designed to study social development by interacting with children.

The researchers examined a number of interactions between the robots and human participants. During half of the interactions the robots were not affected by cognitive biases, but during the remainder, ERWIN made mistakes when remembering simple facts (using verbal abilities and expressions) and Keepon showed extreme happiness or sadness (using various movements and noises).

The participants were then asked to rate their experiences, and the results revealed that almost of all of those taking part enjoyed a more meaningful interaction with the robots when they made mistakes.

“The cognitive biases we introduced led to a more humanlike interaction process,” Mriganka explained. “We monitored how the participants responded to the robots and overwhelmingly found that they paid attention for longer and actually enjoyed the fact that a robot could make common mistakes, forget facts and express more extreme emotions, just as humans can.

“The human perception of robots is often affected by science fiction; however there is a very real conflict between this perception of superior and distant robots, and the aim of human-robot interaction researchers. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognise users’ emotions and needs, and act accordingly. Despite this, robots used in previous research have lacked human characteristics so that users cannot relate – how can we interact with something that is more perfect than we are?

“As long as a robot can show imperfections which are similar to those of humans during their interactions, we are confident that long-term human-robot relations can be developed.”

The results of this study pave the way for the next phase of Mriganka’s PhD research, which will investigate whether using robots that show cognitive bias in a similar way, but which look more human-like, develops even more successful relationships. Mriganka’s current studies involve MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion), Dr Murray’s 3D-printed humanoid robot. The design of MARC is supplied by the open source project InMoov.

Previous research suggests that the appearance of humanoid robots helps users to understand their gestures more intuitively. Hand movements, body language and speech are easy for the human sensory system to interpret straight away as they have been practised since childhood. Mriganka will research whether this familiarity, coupled with cognitive biases and humanlike faults, will stimulate even more positive reactions from users.

Robots attend Europe’s largest tech conference

3D-printed robots from the University of Lincoln, UK, have taken their first overseas trip to attend Europe’s largest annual technology event in Dublin.

Web Summit, which runs from 4th to 6th November 2014, has been called ‘the best technology conference on the planet’.

MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion) and TAMMIE (Technologically Advanced Multi-Modal Interactive Entity), two androids created by Dr John Murray from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, made guest appearances at the event.

Dr Murray was invited to the event to team up with Wevolver, a start-up company that aims to bring together open source projects and communities to develop new and exciting creative ideas.

MARC and TAMMIE, together with their fellow robot ERWIN, are being used to help scientists understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and androids. Existing robots lack identifiable human characteristics that prevent humans developing a bond with them.

The project team believe their studies into human-computer interaction could one day see robots act as companions and may also help researchers to understand how relationships are built by children with conditions such as autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder. MARC and TAMMIE are 3D-printed robots whose design was supplied by the open source project InMoov (www.inmoov.fr).

Web Summit will attract around 22,000 people – including 700 investors and 1,300 journalists – and speakers include the CEO of Dropbox, Drew Houston; the founder of Paypal and the first investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel; and actress and entrepreneur Eva Longoria.

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Past and present will wow public at air show

Visitors to this year’s RAF Waddington International Air Show can meet a 3D-printed robot and listen to the sound of an insect that lived 165 million years ago.

Created by Dr John Murray from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, UK, MARC – Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion – will be meeting the public during the event on 5th and 6th July 2014.

MARC, whose design is supplied by the open source project InMoov, is one of three robots created to help scientists understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and androids.

He will be one of the attractions at the University of Lincoln’s stand which takes on the theme of ‘Robotics and the Natural World’.

The process used to create MARC will be demonstrated with visitors having the chance to 3D-print their own initial.

Dr Murray said: “It’s great to be taking part in the Waddington Air Show once again. People love to see the projects being worked on here at the University of Lincoln and it’s a valuable opportunity to engage with the public and showcase the fantastic research being undertaken by academics from a wide variety of subjects.”

A new exhibit this year is the ‘Jurassic Acoustic Detective’ , which will explain the story of how the fossil record of a long-extinct insect has been brought to life. Visitors will be able to listen to the sound made by an insect that died 165 million years ago when dinosaurs still stalked the earth and also learn how the extinct Jurassic bushcrickets communicated.

The exhibit is based on the research of Dr Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, Senior Lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, who aims to understand how bushcrickets (or katydids) detect ultrasonic frequencies in their natural environment.

Members of the public can watch an electro-luminescent dance performance given by the University’s Performing Arts students and use the Oculus Rift head-mounted virtual reality headset to experience a CGI ‘fly-through’ of the whole show.

Also on show will be the popular ‘robot football’, which people can control on a purpose-built football pitch, and quadrocopters – the latest sensation in aerial remote control aircraft.

Siren FM, the city’s community radio station based on the University’s Brayford campus, will be at the show all weekend to record the reactions of visitors to the stand.

3D-printed robot MARC
3D-printed robot MARC