Researchers at CornellUniversity have developed a robot that tells you how it’s feeling by changing its outer shell.
For example, if the robot is feeling angry, its eyes will turn into fire and it will expel spikes down its back. It can also display goosebumps if it’s scared, researchers at the university explained.
“I’ve always felt that robots shouldn’t just be modeled after humans or be copies of humans,” Assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Guy Hoffman said. “We have a lot of interesting relationships with other species. Robots could be thought of as one of those ‘other species,’ not trying to copy what we do but interacting with us with their own language, tapping into our own instincts.”
He explained that one of the challenges researchers came across as that other shapeshifting robots can be quite loud when they’re transitioning, but this particular robot stays silent thanks to fluidic actuators underneath its skin that control the changing surface texture. The pumps used often make robots like this bulky, but the use of the fluid actuators don’t have much of an impact on the robot’s size.
Although creating a robot that can demonstrate its emotion in such a way is a pretty big step in the world of robotics, there isn’ a specific use case sketched out for it yet. However, Hoffman explained the researchers now want to create a scaled-up version and fit it into a self-contained robot.
The next stage in its development is to make the technology more responsive to the robot’s emotional changes, adding on more emotional indicators.
“At the moment, most social robots express [their] internal state only by using facial expressions and gestures,” the paper concludes. “We believe that the integration of a texture-changing skin, combining both haptic [feel] and visual modalities, can thus significantly enhance the expressive spectrum of robots for social interaction.”