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Service Robot Floka’s Big Debut

Published on 22. Juni 2016, 11:38 h
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology presents its “Home with a Brain” at the Automatica trade fair in Munich

What must an intelligent apartment provide in order to make everyday life safe, healthy, and comfortable? The Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) will give a glimpse into the home of the future from 21–24 June 2016 at Automatica, the international trade fair for automation and mechantronics held in Munich. Under the banner “A Home with a Brain,” CITEC will exhibit its new research developments at Stand 315 in Hall B4. Here, the service robot Floka will be debuted to the public for the first time. Floka is fitted with a new “social” robotic head that was also developed at CITEC whose facial expressions can signal happiness, worry, interest, or anger.     

Der Serviceroboter Floka wird auf der Automatica erstmals öffentlich vorgeführt. Er ist mit einem neuen, „sozialen“ Roboterkopf ausgestattet. Foto: CITEC/Universität Bielefeld
The service robot Floka is being presented to the public for the first time at the Automatica trade fair. Floka is equipped with a new “social” robotic head. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld
In a video, researchers from the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) explain how Floka can lend a helping hand in the home as a social companion. In order to react flexibly, the robot is learning to evaluate social situations in CITEC’s experimental apartment. Previously, a sensor head was used on Floka, but this was not optimal for communicating with human users because the head was not able to show facial expressions. “The social robotic head has the most important features of a human face – eyes, eyebrows, and mouth – and with its cartoonish face, it has a friendly appearance,” says Privatdozent Dr. Sven Wachsmuth, who heads the CITEC Central Lab Facilities. “With its facial expressions, the social robotic head can show attention and give feedback,” explains the computer scientist. “We can also vary the appearance of the robotic head to make a feminine one look more masculine, or make an older head appear younger.”

In addition to Floka, CITEC will present another four exhibits that show how daily life in the apartment of the future could change. Part of this transformation is Amiro, the mobile mini robot mounted on two wheels that is about the size of a money box in its base version – about eight centimeters tall, and ten centimeters in diameter. Amiro orients and moves itself autonomously, and is equipped with a video camera. Its hardware is modular, which makes it easy to install infrared, image, or laser sensors. Amiro can be used, for instance, as a mobile sensor that can help the user keep an eye on their own apartment remotely with a Smartphone. The robot runs on a Linux operating system, allowing home users to program Amiro for any task – whether as a toy for their children, or a mobile video camera.

Adamaas: a pair of glasses that helps jog your memory and provides unobtrusive assistance with everyday activities. The data glasses are designed to recognize the individual needs of their user and determine what is causing the user trouble when performing a task, such as baking a cake or doing exercises. If the user runs into problems, the glasses react in real time and display helpful comments and instructions in the user’s field of vision. At Automatica, trade fair visitors will be able to test out Adamaas for making coffee.

KogniChef, the intelligent kitchen, will also be presented at CITEC’s trade fair stand. As a cooking assistant, KogniChef makes sure that each recipe turns out a success, providing assistance not only to novice chefs, but also people with cognitive challenges such as early-stage dementia. Like the lane-assist system in a car, the “navigation assistant” for the kitchen notices when things are going off track and immediately offers its assistance. An integrated tablet leads users step-by-step through recipes and can be operated by voice or gesture. Visitors to the trade fair can see for themselves just how good KogniChef is in the kitchen. The cooking assistant is a research prototype from KogniHome, the large-scale project coordinated by CITEC in which 14 project partners from the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Germany are working together on the apartment of the future.     

The Soundscape Refiner provides a sonically protected space for visitors who want to get away from the noise of the trade fair. It records noise from the surroundings, turning it into pleasant background sound in real time that is then played over the speakers. In places where there are many conversations going on at the same time, the Soundscape Refiner overlaps the noises to create a subjectively harmonious background sound.

Automatica in Munich is the world’s leading trade fair for automation, where companies and research institutions exhibit the latest advances in robotics, modern assembly and handling technologies, and industrial image processing. Robotics is a central area of exhibition at this biennial trade fair, with a focus on how humans and robots can work together.

The Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University is one of 43 clusters of excellence in Germany, and the only one specializing in robotics. CITEC is working to make technical systems intuitive and easy to operate. The Cluster’s interdisciplinary approach combines cognitive research with technology and engineering. As part of the Excellence Initiative since 2007, CITEC is funded by the federal and state governments of Germany. Approximately 250 researchers work at CITEC.
For more information online, please visit:

• “Floka, the Social Robot: A Companion for the Apartment of the Future”:    www.youtube.com/watch?v=t87agABeNkI&feature=youtu.be
•    CITEC Coordinator Helge Ritter invites you to visit CITEC at Automatica: www.youtube.com/watch?v=macU_Y6_bSQ
•    “Automatica 2016 | The Service Robot for Everyday Life Has Arrived”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDx3HD1vnws
•    Informational website from CITEC for Automatica trade fair: https://cit-ec.de/automatica2016

Jörg Heeren, Bielefeld University
Science Communication at CITEC
Telephone: +49 521 106-6562
Email: jheeren@uni-bielefeld.de

Der Kochassistent KogniChef sorgt dafür, dass die verschiedensten Rezepte gelingen. Ein integriertes Tablet führt schrittweise durch das Rezept und lässt sich auch per Stimme und Gestik bedienen. Foto: CITEC/Universität Bielefeld
The cooking assistant KogniChef ensures that each recipe turns out a success. An integrated tablet that can be operated by voice or gesture leads the user step-by-step through the recipe. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University.
Einer der Forschungsprotoptypen von CITEC: Der Soundscape-Veredler. Das System schafft einen akustischen Schutzraum für Personen, die dem Lärm der Messe entgehen wollen. Auch bei Hauspartys oder Konferenzen ist es einsetzbar. Foto: CITEC/Universität Bielefeld
One of the research prototypes from CITEC is the Soundscape Refiner. The system creates a sonically shielded space for those who would like to escape the din of the trade fair. It can also be used for house parties for conferences. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University.

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