MIT researchers recently demonstrated the capabilities of a robot named Domo, designed to interact with humans and adapt to its environment. Original funding for Domo came from NASA but the project is now supported by Toyota. Intelligent robots could work together with people to make workers more productive and save manufacturing jobs from being sent overseas. Unlike its predecessors, Domo also has the ability to sense touch, necessary for safe interaction with humans. Aaron Edsinger, Domo's developer for the past three years, explained how springs in its arms, hands and neck can sense force, allowing it to respond appropriately. Pushing its hand will make it move in the direction of the push. Too much force or moving Domo's arms in the wrong direction will produce a vocal response of "ouch."
A recent demonstration showed off Domo's voice recognition capabilities and its ability to understand tasks such as verifying the existence of a shelf, deducing the size of an object by making optical measurements, figuring out how to handle the object between its hands and finally placing the object on the shelf. Domo's "eyes" (a pair of video cameras connected to 12 computers) are especially sensitive to human faces and it (he?) can also use them to sense its surroundings. The cameras are built into remarkably human-looking "eyeballs," for a reason, said Edsinger: "I found that, by making them immediately understandable as eyes, it was very easy to read [Domo's] eye-gaze direction, which is important when working with it. They also greatly increase people's comfort level with the robot."