ERWIN Helps Researches Study Relationship Between Humans And Robots
February 8, 2014

Friendly Robot ERWIN To Help Study Relationship Between Man And Machine

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science are developing a “friendly robot” in order to better learn how humans and androids can forge long-term relationships with one another.

According to Elisa Criado of The Independent, the robot is known as ERWIN (short for the Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network) and was developed specifically to bond with men and women.

It was designed by Dr. John Murray, a senior lecturer at the UK university, and is currently being used by PhD student Mriganka Biswas in a project analyzing how some human-like biases in robot characteristics impact the relationship between man and machine.

“Cognitive biases make humans what they are, fashioning characteristics and personality, complete with errors and imperfections,” Biswas said in a statement Thursday. “Therefore, introducing cognitive biases in a robot's characteristics makes the robot imperfect by nature, but also more human-like.”

“Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce 'characteristics' and 'personalities' to the robot,” he added. “If we can explain how human-to-human long-term relationships begin and develop, then it would be easier to plan the human-robot relationship.”

The project is essentially testing whether or not robots will be able to identify with their flesh-and-blood counterparts when it comes to this whole “emotion” thing, both now and in the foreseeable future, explained Ubergizmo’s Edwin Kee. While adapting the notion of feelings to a machine seems impossible, that’s basically what Biswas and Murray hope to accomplish.

“The key obstacle in forming a bond with a robot may lie in our flawed human thought processes,” Criado said. “As humans, we have the tendency to use certain illogical patterns of thought, or cognitive biases, when making judgments about the world and other people around us. We do this because these shortcuts allow us to make quicker decisions and free up our limited mental space for dealing with unfamiliar input.”

These characteristics are what shape our personality, and essentially what makes us human, Biswas said. Conversely, robots and computers are generally forced to operate by following a rational series of guidelines or instructions, making them fundamentally different from men and women.

However, they can be made to seem more human by outfitting them with cognitive bias and human-like personality traits. According to the researchers, ERWIN has been given the ability to express five different emotions.

“Robots are increasingly being used in different fields, such as rescuing people from debris, in medical surgeries, elderly support and as an aid for people who have autism,” Mriganka said. “For the latter two especially, robots need to be friendly and relatively more sympathetic and emotive to its users.”

“A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognize users’ emotions and needs, and to act accordingly. So, for each category the robot needs to form a ‘long-term’ relationship with its users, which is possible by continuous interactions and the robot having its own personality and characteristics,” he added.

Furthermore, the researchers are hoping to use ERWIN to learn more about how relationships are formed by children who have autism, Asperger syndrome or other related conditions. They believe that the robot’s simple appearance and behavior will help youngsters with developmental disorders understand its emotive behaviors.