Recently more entertainment robots have been developed and became a part of our daily life. These robots remain in contact with us for a long time, and so the impression of friendliness is important for such kind of robots.
Friendliness can naturally be found in stuffed toys which are loved by both young and olds. As a result, we want to create a robot as soft as these stuffed toys.
However, the existing stuffed robots lose the soft characteristic of stuffed toy because of their movable parts are hard. Thus we propose a stuffed robot which can realize intimate interactions with human while keeping its soft mechanism.
The movable parts are made up of strings and cotton bags. The strings then are controlled by the motors attached to the arm unit to achieve the robot’s motion.
Currently our soft-stuffed robots have been developed with 2 kinds of interactions:
Motion Generation for the soft-stuffed robot is created by interaction with external sensor e.g. Kinect. Users’ positions and actions are obtained by Kinect and used to derive the amount of attention. The robot reacts by gazing and reaching for a target with the highest amount of attention.
The stuffed robot can express its intention through interaction with its arms. While users moves or shakes the robot’s hand, the force sensors can detect the external force acting on the arm. Then the robot can respond by moving its arm to follow the user’s movement. The users can feel the robot’s intention by the feeling of touch and force in the arm of the robot.
The force sensor is designed to detect the force from two directions to realize the intention expression. Two photo reflectors are installed on aluminum-elastic bodies and can detect the external force applied to the arms. The sensor is positioned between the robot’s arm and body so that the force detected is not disturbed by the movements of the arm. Under force control, the amount of the arm’s movement depends on the external force detected.
Our goal is to realize a heart-touching robot by the feeling of touch and force. In the future, stuffed-toy robot may become a new medium for pet-therapy. It can also become our friends and live with us in our home.