Asimo is a robot that has been in development since 1996. It has now been stationed at the Miraikan science museum in Tokyo, to act as the museum guide. However, on the very first day of its deployment, Asimo ran into trouble when it was unable to discern the meaning of different human gestures.
Apparently, the key problem which Asimo faced was that it couldn’t tell when a person raised hand to snap a photo and when the raised hand meant that the person wanted to ask a question. As a result, every time anyone raised his hands to take a photo with his camera, the robot stopped asked, “Who wants to ask Asimo a question?”
Since the robot can’t work with voice commands, gesture recognition is one of the chief ways for it to interact with the audience. The other option is to interact with the robot through a touchscreen panel.
According to Honda robotics technology specialist, Satoshi Shigemi, “Right now, it can recognize a child waving to it, but it’s not able to comprehend the meaning of the waving.”
In human-robots interactions, the ability to discern the meaning of a given gesture is critically important for a robot. Humans make use of virtually infinite gestures, many of which may seem very similar to each other but are meant for different things.
Therefore, it is critically important for the robotics technology to reach the point where robots are finally able to correctly identify most of the gestures humans make in their everyday lives. Such ‘social intelligence’ is important for any robots that aspire to make valid interactions with humans.