NEXT GENERATION COMPANION ROBOTS
Like companion animals and pets, robots have the potential to sustain long-term social interactions, be engaging, and offer forms of spoken and physical comfort. Through their robotic functionality they can also support capabilities such as monitoring whilst requiring less care and support than pets.
MiRo is designed to help developers create the next generation of personal and companion robots that will go beyond mere toys creating lasting and rewarding engagement for users. Being animal-like rather than human-like people respond to MiRo with a different set of expectations that are more easily matched by today’s AI. Interacting with MiRo is already a fun and emotionally rewarding experience.
Human-robot Interaction (HRI)
Research into how people interact with robots is emerging as user-facing robots come out of the factories and start entering our lives and homes. The burgeoning field of HRI needs programmable platforms with lots of in-built capability that are engaging and easy to use. MiRo strengths are its attractive animal-like persona, robust build, long battery-life, wide-range of sensor and actuator types. MiRo is an open-development platform—you as the developer have full access to all of the sensor and actuator systems for on-board or off-board control.
Robot-assisted Therapy (RAT)
Research with companion animals and pets show that these provide many positive emotional outcomes for their owners including reduced risk of some diseases, decreased levels of pain in patients with chronic illness, and reduction in feelings of isolation and loneliness. Even a relatively short period of interaction with a companion animal can have positive and lasting impacts particularly in times of stress. Recent research has also demonstrated that some of the benefits can also be obtained from interactions with animal-like robots. The appearance and behaviour of MiRo make it an ideal platform for investigating the potential use of robots in robot-assisted therapy for both children and adults. Consequential are currently working to develop new interface software that particular targets therapeutic interactions and a soft, washable strokeable covering that will encourage a rewarding tactile interaction.
Biomimetics and brain-based robotics
MiRo’s animal-like design and control system will be of particular interest to researchers investigating models of animal brains and behaviour. MiRo builds on decades of previous work in developing robots with brain-based control systems. MiRo’s control architecture operates across three core ARM processors, that mimic aspects of spinal cord, brainstem, and forebrain functionality respectively including their relative speed and computational power. One important feature is that the control latency of loops through the lowest reprogrammable processor, P1, can be as low as a few milliseconds. This distribution of processing substrates from “fast and simple” through to “slow and sophisticated” is potentially a useful design element for many robots. Consequential’s research partners at the University of Sheffield are using the MiRo robot to test brain models of animal-like spatial memory, we would welcome further collaborations with researchers interested in brain-based robotics.
MiRo can demonstrate the potential of future companion robots to visitors to your laboratory, museum or visitor attraction. MiRo comes with engaging life-like functionality provided by our biomimetic control software. MiRo will orient to and approach sound sources and moving objects, this means he will approach people stopping when he gets close. Stroke MiRo behind the ears or on the back and he wags his tail. MiRo likes you! MiRo’s animal-like vocalisations mean that he both acts and sounds like a friendly small animal. Children are particularly drawn to MiRo but so are adults of all ages and genders. Consequential are working to extend MiRo’s repertoire of in-built behaviours to make interacting with MiRo even more emotionally engaging and fun.
School and University Teaching
MiRo is a low-cost, versatile and flexible platform that can be used to teach everything from basic principles of programming through to computer vision, machine learning, robot control, psychology and biomimetic design. The MiRoSim robot simulation can be provided to a whole classroom of students to develop and test their control software prior to deploying it to control a physical MiRo robot. This means that a large class of students can be taught using a small number of MiRo robots. Most education robots lack the sensor and actuator capabilities of MiRo - still fewer can match its user-appeal. Consequential is developing interfaces to MiRo for common teaching platforms, and we are keen to work with Universities and Schools to customise our offering to your classes.