Giving robotics a heart

Even the most sophisticated robots tend to exhibit the same behaviour towards different people. But imagine programming robots in such a way that they can exhibit bonding behaviour towards regular users. Impossible? No – this is exactly what Prof Johan du Preez and former student Dr Ludwig Schwardt have managed when they developed ‘Communi-kat’.

Using patented pattern recognition, this prototype toy recognises its owner’s voice and responds accordingly. It also has a built-in forget function, which means that if the toy is tossed aside for a few weeks, it will ‘forget’ its owner to some extent, or perhaps even start ‘bonding’ with a new user.

And it’s so clever that it can tell when you’re trying to impersonate someone else, and can pick out its owner’s voice in a two-person conversation.
At this stage Communi-Kat is still in its infancy. The prototype is just a basic furry toy, with a speaker and microphone system pushed under its striped hoodie, which is then hooked up to a computer.

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