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IISc scientists work to improve human-robot interaction

Bengaluru, July 29, 2016, DHNS 1:31 IST
There are different kinds of robots and each with their own application. While human beings can differentiate between various sounds, it is difficult for robots to do the same. This is a major obstacle in human-robot interactions, said a release from the IISc. dh file photo
Popular science fiction writer Isaac Asimov has laid down the three rules of interaction between robots and humans in his books. In the real world, researchers at the Indian Institute of Bangalore (IISc) are working on a project to improve the interaction between man and the machine.

‘Hubot’ is a term coined by the Speech and Audio Group (SAG) at the IISc to represent any effective interaction which occurs between a human and a robot.

There are different kinds of robots and each with their own application. While human beings can differentiate between various sounds, it is difficult for robots to do the same. This is a major obstacle in human-robot interactions, said a release from the IISc.

“Humans have only one pair of ears. But a robot can have more. We can place the ‘ears’ anywhere we want,” said Dr T V Sreenivas, Professor, Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, IISc. He heads the SAG and is leading its research activities.

The researchers are actively engaged in enhancing Hubot communication in order to obtain a better response from robots. The techniques used to enable Hubot communication includes voice and word recognition and gross localisation of sound.

The setup includes placing multiple microphones on the robot which pick up various signals from the environment which are then processed for relevant information.

These scientists have developed several techniques which work to make Hubot communication more effective. One of these is the Y-Array technique which works in an indoor environment to localise and track moving source. Another technique involves the use of multiple rotating microphones on the robot.

The team is working on challenges which must be addressed beforeHubot can be considered perfect. “Although we may not achieve a perfect conversation-type interaction with a robot, we can improve on making the robot follow voice commands more efficiently,” added Prof Sreenivas.

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