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Robotic Technology

A new kind of passenger

By Lisa Rummler

March 2010 - On the most basic level, an automobile is a big piece of metal, plastic and rubber that moves.

Along those lines, some people regard their vehicles simply as a means to get from Point A to Point B, perhaps transporting groceries and/or children along the way. For others, though, a car is much more--a symbol of freedom, the reward for saving money, a reminder of cross-country road trips and other memories. But if the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent becomes a mainstay in automobiles, people's perceptions of their vehicles will likely take on a new meaning.

Electronic passenger
AIDA is an in-car personal robot that communicates with a driver through a small robot embedded in the dashboard.

"With the ubiquity of sensors and mobile computers, information about our surroundings is ever abundant," said Professor Carlo Ratti, director of the SENSEable City Lab, in a press release. "AIDA embodies a new effort to make sense of these great amounts of data, harnessing our personal electronic devices as tools for behavioral support. In developing AIDA, we asked ourselves how we could design a system that would offer the same kind of guidance as an informed and friendly companion."

AIDA is a collaboration among several groups: the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.; MIT's SENSEable City Lab; and the Electronics Research Laboratory at the Volkswagen Group of America Inc., Herndon, Va. Audiwas also involved in AIDA's development.

Mood reader
Professor Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, said in a press release that AIDA can communicate instantaneously with the driver of a vehicle, using nonverbal signals.

"AIDA builds on our long experience in building sociable robots," she said. "We are developing AIDA to read the driver's mood from facial expression and other cues and respond in a socially appropriate and informative way."

This includes providing feedback on driving, suggestions for achieving great energy efficiency and recommendations for safer behavior, among others, according to Assaf Biderman, associate director of the SENSEable City Lab.

"When it merges knowledge about the city with an understanding of the driver's priorities and needs, AIDA can make important inferences," Biderman said in a press release. "Within a week, AIDA will have figured out your home and work location. Soon afterward, the system will be able to direct you to your preferred grocery store, suggesting a route that avoids a street fair-induced traffic jam. On the way, AIDA might recommend a stop to fill up your tank, upon noticing that you are getting low on gas."

To watch a video of AIDA in action, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huQLyjwskQo.

Sources

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge, Mass.
    phone: 617/253-1000
    www.mit.edu

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