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Emotionally engaging products

Consequential Robotics

30 years ago after the flotation of Habitat Terence Conran used some of his newly acquired resources to found the Design Museum, an institution that has tirelessly demonstrated how outstanding design can enhance the experience & quality of life [and a much more spiritually rewarding use of wealth than a super yacht]. Last November the New Design Museum opened its doors in the superbly refurbished Commonwealth Institute in Kensington repurposing the building to become a museum of the future rather than a vestige of the past.

This week sees the opening of an exhibition at the New Design Museum called the New Old [https://designmuseum.org/things-to-do/talks-and-events/pop-up-exhibitions/new-old] it demonstrates how designers are interpreting new ‘near horizon’ technologies to enhance the experience of later life and empower older people to look after themselves, some using autonomous systems and robotics. However there is not a single humanoid robot to be seen, this is for two key reasons:

The first being that although artificial intelligence may be able to beat a human being at board games like Chess and Go, no one has yet developed a functioning human shaped robot capable of autonomously making you a cup of tea in your kitchen, let alone the laboratory. We have had Teasmaids for years but these like dishwashers are inflexible and programmed for a single task. An autonomous robotic arm & hand suitable for domestic use have yet to be developed and this is not a trivial challenge; legs for instance use almost 30 times more energy than wheels, that’s why we don’t use them on cars. At present any attempt at developing humanoids using current technologies is doomed to disappoint.

The second reason is more emotional in that people just feel a bit creepy when confronted by humanoids, we call this ‘uncanny valley’ – people feel threatened by such things. However, we have developed a pet like device, ‘MiRo’, which looks like a cartoon hybrid of a puppy and a bunny, and people feel emotionally engaged, calling it cute and start asking when they can get one. On the face of it MiRo’s principal task, like a pet, is to help people feel happy and reduce loneliness, however, like Radio 4 or Amazon’s Alexa, MiRo can similarly inform. It can also monitor your wellness and remind one to take medicines and recognize people if you are suffering cognitive decline.

The objective is not to replace human on human care, but fill in the gaps when older people might be alone between visits, and give carers an insight into people’s routines too. With a rapidly ageing population and a fast changing society it is probably going to be difficult to find enough compassionate people to do these sensitive jobs.

In the future it will be the responsibility of designers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers to interpret emerging science, technology and engineering to transform it into emotionally engaging products such as the iPhone, which is celebrating its tenth birthday this month, that will enhance the user’s experience, consumer lifestyle and consequentially our social culture.

The First Robot That Thinks Like an Animal

Consequential Robotics

Consequential Robotics (CqR) is a new UK-based tech company that combines discerning design with state-of-the-art robotics and bio-inspired artificial intelligence. In the coming decade, robots will form more of a part of our everyday lives, sharing our living and public spaces, and interacting with us in more natural  ways. They will play increasingly important roles as assistants and social companions. 

Today CqR announce production of a limited number of MiRos, the world’s first commercial bioMimetic Robot —a flexible robot platform for researchers to develop companion robots of the future.

MiRo is a highly featured, low-cost fully programmable mobile developer platform, with a friendly animal-like appearance, six senses, a nodding and rotating head, moveable hearing-ears, large blinking seeing-eyes, and a responsive wagging tail.

MiRo is the first commercial robot to be controlled by hardware and software modelled on the biological brain. A unique brain-based biomimetic control system, 3B-CS, based on twenty years of research on animal brains and behaviour, which allows MiRo to behave in a life-like way—listening for sounds and looking for movement, then approaching and responding to physical and verbal interactions. MiRo’s tactile perception and mood regulation systems means he particularly appreciates a gentle stroke on his back or behind his ears which he responds to with various contented sounds and a wagging tail.

Development of MiRo’s brain-like control system is continuing at the University of Sheffield with support from the EU Horizon 2020 Human Brain Project. Here the goal is to synthesise a brain-inspired memory system for MiRo that will help him to understand and remember his physical and social world.

The creators of MiRo plan to work alongside the wider research community in robotics and artificial intelligence to create new functionality and provide MiRo with advanced sensory processing, planning, understanding of spoken commands and social intelligence. Developers can work to extend the 3B-CS architecture or they can program the robot with their own software, for instance using the popular Robot Operating System (ROS). Future applications go beyond companion robots and include robot-assisted therapy for young and old, robots for school and university education, and for greeting and entertaining visitors at public attractions such as museums.

Launching the robot, Consequential Robotics founder and lead designer Sebastian Conran said: “The goal of our company is to bring autonomous devices into people’s lives in way that will be emotionally engaging, friendly and useful. We know that having a pet can improve people’s well-being, and we believe that companion robots can also offer additional forms of support and companionship. We hope that MiRO can be the forebear of these robot companions of the future”. A limited number of MiRo platforms are available to professional researchers for £1,900 + Tax & Shipping.

For more information about MiRo visit consequentialrobotics.com/miro

or contact us on: info@consequentialrobotics.com

To talk to the MiRo development team phone:
Sebastian Conran Associates: +44(0)207 036 0636

MiRo is also on Twitter @cqrMiRo

ABOUT CONSEQUENTIAL ROBOTICS

Consequential Robotics combines internationally-recognised design talent with state-of-the-art understanding of robots and artificial intelligence.  The company formed through a collaboration supported by the University of Sheffield’s Designer-in-Residence scheme and funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).  The partnership has also had support from InnovateUK to develop novel assistive robot systems.  Led by the award-winning designer Sebastian Conran, the team includes experts in biomimetic and brain-based robots, Professor Tony Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson from Sheffield Robotics, and Professor David Lane CBE from the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics.