Robotics developers must integrate multiple components, particularly for systems that must safely and effectively interact with people. Cogniteam today announced that the Israel Innovation Authority's consortium of robotics companies will rely on its Nimbus platform to develop next-generation human-robot interaction capabilities.
“A simple direction such as ‘go right’ can be confusing for a robot that does not have the capability to understand human gestures,” said Dr. Yehuda Elmaliach, CEO of Cogniteam. “If given the direction ‘go right’ by a pedestrian, it must rapidly understand if it is the robot’s right or the right of the person who is giving directions.”
Petach Tikva, Israel-based Cogniteam has been developing artificial intelligence for robots for more than 10 years for applications such as mapping, navigation, and autonomous decision-making. Working with the Robot Operating System (ROS), the cloud-based Nimbus includes a library of pre-configured algorithms and enables developers to collaborate and to monitor robot performance in real time, said the company.
Israel Innovation Authority looks to improve HRI
Most of today’s robots are built for single-mission tasks, but they are increasingly engaging with humans, said Cogniteam. Robots will need to assess social situations and communicate verbally and non-verbally with the people around them. For example, a mobile robot could ask for human assistance after diagnosing that its camera is blocked or getting directions from a person for the first time.
The Israel Innovation Authority has allocated $20 million to build a consortium of experienced Israeli robotics companies to jointly develop human-robot interaction (HRI) capabilities. This will be important for service robots dealing with the general public, it said.
The consortium will include both private and academic organizations, including Elbit Systems, Robotican, ReWalk Robotics, Intuition Robotics, Seamless Vision, Deep Learning Robotics, Ben Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, and others. They will jointly address the challenges of developing social capabilities for robots to engage with people.
“This consortium will change the perception of robots in social situations, ushering in a new era of robotics,” Elmaliach said. “Developing these verbal and gesture languages within ROS will have an easy integration using Nimbus for future businesses to rapidly utilize in their next-gen robots.”
Cogniteam tries to lower barrier to robotics entry
Cogniteam will lead the three-year project focusing on identifying communication modes that will be most helpful for new robots.
“Most people would not know how to feel if a service robot or collaborative robot approached them and asked for help,” said Dr. Eliahu Khalastchi, research scientist at Cogniteam. “We want robots to know how to properly conduct themselves in a crowd and be capable of asking for assistance in a natural manner.”
The company said the Israel Innovation Authority chose Nimbus for its “industry-leading drag-and-drop capabilities.” It added that the platform has helped both enterprises and startups leapfrog common development hurdles by offering a library of ready-to-go capabilities.
The ability to effortlessly synchronize with ROS and add a human-machine interaction toolkit will “lower the barrier of entry” for new companies into the rapidly expanding robotics market, said Cogniteam.
While robots are rapidly spreading and evolving, they lack accepted standards, generic implementations, and some critical features, the company said. Cogniteam said it plans to lead the consortium in thinking beyond HRI capabilities, addressing topics of adjustable autonomy, natural human-robot communication, interaction quality, social navigation, and more.