EP. 8: Building robots with heart

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Building robots with heart

You’ve heard of getting social with media. How about with robots? Kiju Lee, PhD, sees that day coming. She’s the Nord Distinguished Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Case School of Engineering. Cooler than that, she’s a robotics expert who is expanding the state of the art. Kiju imbues robots with remarkable capabilities—like flexibility, artificial intelligence, even empathy.

 

Her latest creation, Woody, is a plywood and software “social robot” that knows how you’re feeling. Kiju and her team have trained Woody to recognize about 3,500 facial expressions. That’s less than the 10,000 expressions you’re capable of making, but more than your average couch potato is going to notice. In other words, if you’re feeling blue, it’s Woody who likely has a clue. She sees implications for elderly care.

 

Inspired by origami, she has designed miniature robots that are flexible and strong and that maybe could perform precision surgery, as well as big robots that pack up small and light enough to be stowed on space voyages.

 

She tests her robots at a novel testing center—a senior community in the Cleveland suburbs—where the interaction is both helpful to researchers and heartening to residents. Join us as we talk with Kiju about building robots that will be our tools, our helpers and maybe our companions.

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