Scientists unveil Nadine, the world’s most human-like robot

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Prof Nadia with Nadine NRbanner
Prof Nadia Thalmann (left) posing beside Nadine, a life-like social robot. Nanyang Technological University

Scientists unveil the world’s most human-like robot, Nadine, with soft skin, flowing brunette hair and capable of shaking hands and conversing. Nadine works as a receptionist at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore). Inventors believe this will pave the way to new techniques in child and elderly care.

Nadine, which has the spitting image of the creator, was enabled to meet and greet visitors, smile, make eye contact and even recognise previous guests and start conversations of previous discussions. Nadine also has an individual personality, unlike the usual robots, capable of getting angry when insulted.

“Robotics technologies have advanced significantly over the past few decades and are already being used in manufacturing and logistics,” creator Nadia Thalmann explained in a press release. She added, “Over the past four years, our team at NTU have been fostering cross-disciplinary research in social robotics technologies – involving engineering, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other fields – to transform a virtual human into a physical being that is able to observe and interact with other humans.”

Thalmann shared that this invention is like a real companion that is aware of what is happening. As nations face the challenges of an aging population, social robots can be one solution to address the decreasing workforce and can even become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, serving as a platform form for medical care in the future.

The University also unveiled Nadine’s robot-in-arms, EDGAR, complete with a rear-projection screen on the robot’s face and two highly expressive arms. A user can control EDGAR from anywhere in the world and through a webcam, the user’s expressions will be shown on the robot’s face while the limbs will mimic the person’s upper body movements in real time.

EDGAR could also autonomously deliver speeches through acting out a script. With the webcam, this robot can engage people in conversations as well as giving them witty replies to their questions.

“EDGAR is a real demonstration of how telepresence and social robots can be used for business and education,” added Gerald Seet from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and the BeingThere Centre at NTU. “Telepresence provides an additional dimension to mobility. The user may project his or her physical presence at one or more locations simultaneously, meaning that geography is no longer an obstacle.”

Seet said that social robots are ideal for public venues to provide information to the public. Possibly, educators will start teaching lectures through this technology.

Researchers say that companies have expressed interests in robot technologies. Hence, the sensible step is partnering with these companies and bringing this to the market, reaching the public.

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