The robot called Forpheus does more than play a mean game of table tennis. It can read body language to gauge its opponent’s ability, and offer advice and encouragement. “It will try to understand your mood and your playing ability and predict a bit about your next shot,” said Keith Kersten of Japan-based Omron Automation, which developed Forpheus to showcase its technology. “We don’t sell ping pong robots but we are using Forpheus to show how technology works with people,” said Kersten.
Honda, the Japanese auto giant, launched a new robotics program called Empower, Experience, Empathy including its new 3E-A18 robot which “shows compassion to humans with a variety of facial expressions,” according to a statement. Although empathy and emotional intelligence do not necessarily require a humanoid form, some robot makers have been working on form as well as function.
Developing emotional intelligence in robots is a difficult task, melding the use of computer “vision” to interpret objects and people and creating software that can respond accordingly. “Empathy is the goal: the robot is putting itself in the shoes of the human, and that’s about as hard as it gets,” said Patrick Moorhead, a technology analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “It’s not just about technology, it’s about psychology and trust.”