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A humanoid robot is coming to the Netherlands28 September 2013, by Elzi Lewis
Frank van der Velde, a researcher at the University of Twente has spoken out about the iCub: a robot which can "learn" like a human, and which might be arriving at UT soon.
The science behind it
Van der Velde is excited about recent developments in the world of robotics. Importantly, new technology means certain models are capable of cognitive processes, making them spookily akin to humans.
The most important of these models is currently the iCub. Essentially, this is a humanoid robot which is able to feel, see and "think" like a real person.
Van Der Velde notes that the field of cognitive psychology has been highly influential in the development of iCub: "The application of cognition in technical systems should mean that the robot learns from its experiences and the actions it performs."
He gives a simple example of these cognitive features: "A robot that spills too much when pouring a cup of coffee can then learn how it should be done."
Van der Velde's comments were made in anticipation of the latest model of iCub making its way to Twente.
The humanoid robot costs 250.000 euros, but the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) will reimburse 75 per cent of this cost.
20 European countries are currently in possession of an iCub, but the Netherlands has yet to make the list. The decision as to whether UT will receive an iCub will be announced in February.
Photo by Flickr user jiuguangw
If it goes ahead, the iCub will also be made available for scientists at the universities of Groningen, Nijmegen, Delft and Eindhoven.
The iCub is important not only because of its technological brilliance, but also because of its potential to transform society at large.
Van der Velde is excited about the "endless" possibilities for this device: "In areas of application like healthcare and nursing, such robots can play an important role. A good example would be that in 10 years' time you see a blind person walking with a robot guide dog."
However, while van der Velde refers to robots as "he" or "she," he remains unworried about the risks of these latest developments.
His thoughts on robots taking over the world? "It will never go that far. The pouring of coffee that I was talking about; let's first make sure that it no longer makes a mess."