The LIREC software architecture powers MyFriend, a self-aware, emotionally responsive robot system that plays chess with children using an electronic chessboard. Developed by INESC-ID , the iCat robot used provides personalised empathic feedback to a child’s moves with facial expressions and utterances, using the Affect Detection System developed in the LIREC project.
Examples of empathic interventions include encouraging comments, non-verbal cues and game-related actions (e.g., suggesting a good move). To adapt to each user, and how they might react to the interventions, the robot is “self-aware”, learning which empathic interventions are better suited for a particular child.
This method and LIREC software architecture for personalising the interaction, based on the analysis of a users’ reactions after the robot’s interventions, can be useful in other applications such as personalised customer service, intelligent tutoring systems or entertainment.
Initial experiments with primary school children showed that children perceived the robot as more engaging and helpful when it reacted to their emotions by displaying empathic behaviour. Long-term studies to evaluate the impact of the robot’s personalised feedback over repeated interactions are under way.
INESC-ID is a partner in LIREC (Living with Robots & Interactive Companions) a 5 year EU-funded project that ends in August 2012.