MIT has announced that it is developing a new expressive robot named Nexi. Nexi is designed to convey human emotions though facial movements, such as slanting eyebrows and head-movements. The Nexi robot has been designed by Xitome Design in collaboration with MIT and has been refereed to by MIT as a “MDS” class of robot this being short for ‘Mobile/Dexterous/Social’.
MIT have stated that “The purpose of this platform is to support research and education goals in human-robot interaction, teaming, and social learning. In particular, the small footprint of the robot (roughly the size of a 3 year old child) allows multiple robots to operate safely within a typical laboratory floor space. MIT is responsible for the overall design, the mobile manipulator is developed by UMASS Amherst, and system integration is handled by Xitome Design.” (robotic.media.mit.edu/projects/robots/mds/overview/overview.html)
Nexi is equipped with a color CCD camera in each eye, an active 3D infrared camera in its head and four microphones. The neck mechanism has 4 DoFs to support a lower bending at the base of the neck as well as pan-tilt-yaw of the head. The head can move at human-like speeds to support human head gestures such as nodding, shaking, and orienting. The Nexi head is attached to a base comprised of two manipulating arms with gripping hands and two wheels. The wheels are much like a Segway and using a microprocessor the robot is capable of self-balancing.
MIT has a history of research with expressive robots; Kismet, developed in the late 1990s, was one of the first robots designed to mimic human facial emotions.