Microsoft Research announced the winners of its “Robots Among Us” request for proposals, a program that looks into the growing field of human-robot interaction or HRI. The eight winning projects were selected from 74 submissions from academic researchers in 24 countries and will split US$500,000 in funding. Each project attemps to further integrate social, intelligent robots into human environments — or should we say, humans into AI/robotic environments. The projects range from PDA-driven intelligent wheelchairs and FaceBots embedded in social networking sites to disaster response robots such as Survivor Buddy for trapped victims and a multi-touch computing platform that can monitor different systems and robots deployed at a disaster site.
Yesterday, Roland Piquepaille on Technology Trends blogged about one of the winners: Robin Murphy of the University of South Florida, who is developing Survivor Buddy, a multimedia, web-enabled robot that can function as “a companion to a person who may be trapped after a car crash or in building ruins following an earthquake, or someone pinned down by sniper fire.” Murphy designed the robots used for urban search and rescue at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11/2001 attacks. The robots were tele-operated and used to enter spaces too small, too deep, or too dangerous for human or canine rescuers. Frustrated with recent disasters in Burma and China, Murphy says: “My dream is that one day you’ll see rescuers and dogs at a disaster site, but if you don’t see a robot, you’ll say, ‘Where are they?’ because they’ll have become so commonplace. They’ll do things dogs and people can’t.”
We’re not in Kansas anymore.