Making Social Robots More Accessible

08/18/2016 10:14 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I've written a few times recently about the rise in so called social robots that are deployed in environments such as teaching and healthcare.

Now, a startup that was spun out of research by the University of Luxembourg, is attempting to make the development of such social robots easier.

The venture, called LuxAI, has already received international acclaim and comes with a novel programming interface to make it easier for non-experts to contribute to the platform.

Widening access

The LuxAI robot is based on a bespoke Robot Agent Programming Language. Whilst this language is similar to most other programming languages in that it's difficult for lay people to decipher, it comes with an interface that opens things up to just this group.

The interface is based on the Android platform and the team hope that it will make social robots suitable for the mass market.

"Non-IT-expert people have made the first tests with our robots. They were able to program the robots for their purpose within 20 minutes. Our software lets anyone do it," they say.

The team believe that social robotics has tremendous potential in a wide range of disciplines, although they're at pains to point out that they don't believe they will replace trained personnel so much as augment and support them.

They are now working with the Fondation Autisme Luxembourg and the University of Luxembourg to work on a specific device for autism therapy and behavioral regulation, with possible additional applications for things such as teaching children foreign languages.

"LuxAI shows how our efforts to translate research results into concrete applications of high social benefit are increasingly bearing fruit. There is a growing desire among our scientists to use their findings entrepreneurially as well. We are systematically supporting them on this," the university says.

It seems somewhat unnatural that robots will perform social functions, but a number of studies suggest that they are surprisingly accepted, even in seemingly unlikely venues such as elderly care homes. As such, it seems an area that's ripe for growth, and it will be interesting to see where the LuxAI team go from here.

Originally posted at The Horizon Tracker