Robotic Infant Affetto Gets More Body Parts
July 29, 2012

Lifelike Robotic Infant Affetto Gets Arms And Torso

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Affetto, the infant robot currently in development at Osaka University in Japan, now has a torso and a pair of arms, bringing their attempt to create what some media outlets are dubbing "the most realistic infant robot ever made" one step closer to completion.

While Affetto is "walking that still-precarious line between robots and humans," Mat Smith of Engadget, it now sports a "prototype upper body" that features a total of 22 pneumatic actuators to control its movement -- three in the neck, one in the chest, four in the waist, and seven in each arm, the developers said in a new YouTube video featuring the most recent developments in the project.

According to the website PlasticPals, the pneumatic actuators control Affetto's arms, neck, and spine, allowing the robotic infant to have 12 degrees of freedom in its head. While those devices are harder to control than electric motors, they are more flexible and make it easier for direct physical interaction (i.e. hugging or cuddling) to occur, they added.

"The project falls under the umbrella of 'cognitive developmental robotics,' which uses robotics to study human development -- in particular, the interplay between caregivers and developing babies," Jeff Blagdon of The Verge said.

"The laboratory´s site explains, 'interacting with the environment and people nearby is an important factor in development. In order to create the same conditions as with a real child, we´re developing a child robot that´s the same size, with a soft body, rich facial expressions, and small hands,'" he added.

Reportedly, Affetto weighs just over six and a half pounds, while currently only its face is covered with soft urethane elastomer gel, one day its entire body will be covered in the material. That would make it safer to interact with, as well as more appealing to touch, PlasticPals said. The website also predicts that legs won't be "too far behind" the arms as the project, which is funded through 2016, advances.

The primary goal of the Osaka University team's work is to create something that will help people get used to having robots in their own home, and possibly even caring for them as they would their own children or pets, Raoul Girard of suggested in a July 28 report. The developers plan to improve it further, and ultimately hope to create "a realistic child robot with a muscle-skeletal system," he added.