This robot interacts and forms bonds with people as he responds to non-verbal cues such as body movements. Researchers see potential for the use of robots to assist autistic children or to prepare children for surgery.
When Nao is sad, he hunches his shoulders forward and looks down. When he's happy, he raises his arms, angling for a hug. When frightened, Nao cowers, and he stays like that until he is soothed with some gentle strokes on his head.
Nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps, except that Nao is a robot — the world's first that can develop and display emotions. He can form bonds with the people he meets depending on how he is treated. The more he interacts with someone, the more Nao learns a person's moods and the stronger the bonds become.
While Japanese researchers have led advances in robot engineering, many European roboticists have instead focused on studying how robots will interact with humans. Kerstin Dautenhahn, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Hertfordshire, has developed Kaspar, a robot in the shape of a two-year-old boy, which can make facial expressions and play games such as peek-a-boo. She has also set up a flat in Hatfield, where a home-help robot interacts with volunteers, to study longer-term relationships between people and machines.