Meet Nadine, a humanoid social robot created by NTU

Yon Heong Tung

Nadine not only looks and feels like a human being but is also capable of expressing emotions and recognising people’s faces

Image Credit: NTU

Deep in the labs of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Professor Nadia Thalmann has created a robot in her own image — “Nadine”. The robot was unveiled yesterday by NTU’s Institute for Media Innovation.

According to a news release by NTU, the robot, with her soft skin and brunette hair, not only looks and feels like an actual human being but is capable of remembering people’s faces and past conversations.

Nadine is also able to express her own emotions and moods. For example, based on the type of conversations, she can react with feelings of happiness or sadness. While she may look highly advanced, the robot is not actually sentient (yet). she is powered by an intelligent software similar to Apple’s Siri.

Nadine is designed to be a personal assistant for offices and homes. The robot will also be a social companion for the elderly and the young.

“As countries worldwide face challenges of an aging population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future,” said Thalmann, in a press statement.

She also mentioned that NTU is actively encouraging cross-disciplinary research into social robotic technologies — involving fields such as engineering, computer science, linguistics and psychology, to achieve the vision of creating self-actualising robots like C-3PO, the golden droid from Star Wars movies.

Also Read: Singapore unveils Smart Nation showcase IExperience

A physical avatar for humans

Another humanoid robot, Expressions Display and Gesturing Avatar Robot (EDGAR), was also showcased yesterday.

However, unlike Nadine, EDGAR only serves as a physical avatar for humans. It has a near-projection screen for a face and two arms. To control it, users have to stand in front of a specialised webcam, the robot will then mimic and project the user’s upper body movements and gestures in real time.

Image Credit: Channel NewsAsia

The robot EDGAR. Image Credit: Channel NewsAsia

The version that was unveiled yesterday is actually the second iteration of EDGAR, dubbed EDGAR 2. According to a report from The Straits Times, it is more independent.

It is capable of acting out a script autonomously. And like any good speaker, it tracks the audience while speaking and replies to their question, through the use of its integrated webcam.

“In [the] future, a renowned educator giving lectures or classes to large groups of people in different locations at the same time could become commonplace. Or you could attend classes or business meetings all over the world using robot proxies, saving time and travel costs,” said Associate Professor Gerald Seet, in a press statement.

These robots are another indication that Singapore’s Smart Nation drive is progressing smoothly.

But are we moving too fast? Will robots of the future become indistinguishable from humans? Let’s hope not.

Also Read: How drones can help Singapore be the world’s first Smart Nation

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