Flobi shows what it is capable of at the Robot Conference ICRA 2013 in Karlsruhe

The Center of Excellence CITEC at Bielefeld University presented itself at the robot conference ICRA 2013 by demonstrating its robotic head, Flobi, which challenged conference attendees to a game of memory. Around seventy exhibitors showcased their new developments at the Karlsruhe Convention Center. At the same time scientists discussed ‘Anthropomatics – Technologies for Humans’ at the conference.

Around two thousand researchers and representatives of industry visited the ICRA 2013 (International Conference on Robotics and Automation) from 6 until 10 May, amongst them about a dozen scientists from the Bielefeld Center of Excellence CITEC. At the accompanying exhibition, the CITEC scientists showed the Robotic head, Flobi, which was developed within the Center of Excellence. They participated in the joint stand of the German Research Foundation.

Flobi reacts with mimics to its counterpart by moving its eyes, eyebrows, eyelids and lips. This is especially apparent when it is playing memory: when Flobi turns over two matching cards his lips move to form a smile. When he fails he pulls a sad face. In a new development, Flobi is now able to locate a voice of its counterpart in a room, and to visually evaluate the face that belongs to it. Furthermore, the robot can be fitted with a variety of features. This is possible by magnetically interchangeable components. For example, a variation in hair colour allows the robot to look male or female. The robot head attracted lots of visitors, above all children on “Citizens Day” at the end of the conference. The questions behind the research with Flobi are : What is required for an intuitive interaction between people and machines? And what is needed in order for a robot to be accepted by people as a communication partner?

In addition to the robot head, the CITEC scientists also showed a tactile sensor that is able to perceive points of contact. The tactile sensors couple a high sensitivity with very quick reaction times. A robot fitted with these sensors registers at an early stage that it is coming into contact with an object and can sense if it has a safe hold on an object or if it threatens to slip from its grasp.

Furthermore, the CITEC scientists presented a method of 3D scene analysis. A technical system is thereby capable of perceiving arbitrary stacked objects as singular objects, rather than one unit. This is important, for example, where a robot is supposed to transport packaged food from one place to the other. If the robot perceives the stacked objects as just one single object it could easily grip them in the wrong way and damage them.

The ICRA is world renowned as one of the most important events in robotics. The host is the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, which itself is affiliated to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an international professional association for engineers from the fields of electrical engineering and information technology.