Dashboard robot designed for 'behavioural support'

US researchers are developing an in-car personal robot that will develop a relationship with the driver, read facial expressions and offer "informed and friendly" guidance.

The Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA) project is a collaboration between the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, MIT's SENSEable City Lab and the Volkswagen Group of America's Electronics Research Lab.

"With the ubiquity of sensors and mobile computers, information about our surroundings is ever abundant," comments professor Carlo Ratti, director of the SENSEable City Lab. "AIDA embodies a new effort to make sense of these great amounts of data, harnessing our personal electronic devices as tools for behavioural support. We asked ourselves how we could design a system that would offer the same kind of guidance as an informed and friendly companion."

AIDA communicates with the driver through a small robot embedded in the dashboard. Professor Cynthia Breazeal of MIT Media Lab explained: "We are developing AIDA to read the driver's mood from facial expression and other cues and respond in a socially appropriate and informative way." Over time, the project envisions that a kind of symbiotic relationship develops between the driver and AIDA, whereby both parties learn from each other and establish an affective bond.

To identify the set of goals the driver would like to achieve, AIDA analyses the driver's mobility patterns, keeping track of common routes and destinations. It also draws on real-time event information and knowledge of environmental conditions, as well as commercial activity, tourist attractions, and residential areas.

"Within a week AIDA will have figured out your home and work location, says Assaf Biderman, associate director of the SENSEable City Lab. "Soon afterwards the system will be able to direct you to your preferred grocery store, suggesting a route that avoids a street fair. On the way AIDA might recommend a stop to fill up your tank, upon noticing that you are getting low on gas."

However, any friendship between driver and robot may be strained by the knowledge that AIDA "can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behaviour."


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