Lunes 1 de Julio de 2002, Ip nš 18

Are you ready for angry robots?
Por Ed Dawson

Imagine a "friendly fridge" that could have its own personality, or a child's toy that would do more than imitate feelings.

An Australian company called Mindsystems has devised an Artificial Intelligence system for simulating human emotion. It can apparently be used to quite convincingly replicate a person's feelings in a variety of situations. Called EMIR (Emotional Model for Intelligent Response), it is based on real-time data collected by researchers in the psychological sciences.

Mindsystems predicts EMIR could be used for virtually every system that has a human-machine interface. It goes as far as imagining a stock-market simulation that could predict how thousands of investors would react emotionally to certain information.

Angry robot

The system includes simulation for feelings that are somewhat surprising. For example, the system can simulate boredom. The Mindsystems team states that EMIR has over 259 "emotion terms" it can show. It works by looking at factors influencing a character, such as success at achieving goals and levels of a character's control over its own situation.

This "state of mind" is then compared to a database of human responses mapped over time, which was assembled by a U.S. research psychologist Dr Albert Mehrabian of University of California at Los Angeles.

The system is initially intended for entertainment applications, such as toys that display emotion and videogame characters that respond emotionally to their virtual circumstances. The company has assembled technological demos of the system, such as a search engine that uses certain language cues to find information of a particular emotional flavor.

Another demo, called "Robby the emotional thermostat," allows the user to control the environment that influences a virtual character, causing emotional responses such as anger when the environment gets beyond the character's control.

Although the system is initially being targeted at toys and game software, the project was originally intended to revolutionize warning systems. For example, the EMIR software could allow a system to deliver various degrees of urgency in its voice in order to alert bored operators of a problem situation. This is especially important in "terrain warning systems."

ZDNet Australia conducted a short Q&A with Mindsystems representatives.

Q: Can you tell us about a system that will soon go live with EMIR integrated and what it does?
A: At the moment we only have EMIR running on our demo systems. We are currently looking for adventure game developers who would like to benefit by their software expressing emotion.

I take it you will be selling the system as a licensed framework that software developers can use?
Yes, we have the library in Java, COM and C++/C packages for game machines; and it can be tailored for custom hardware, such as, warning systems or even household appliances like "Smart Fridges."

Do you charge on a product-by-product basis?
The software will be sold by per-copy licenses at a low rate similar to the way Dolby-C is licensed.

Can you describe in detail what "terrain warning" systems are?
Terrain warning systems currently use a synthesized voice to tell jet pilots when they're too low, or warn them if they are about to hit the side of a mountain. Our software would enhance this type of system by adding emotional inflection to the system triggered, by the situation as it progresses. The purpose would be so that the pilot could be alerted to increased levels of danger, allowing them to concentrate on flying the airplane.


  21/06/2002. Zdnet.