US researchers have developed a robot, with texture-changing skin mapped to its emotional state, that can express how it is ''feeling''.
It can express "emotions" through changes in its outer surface and can develop goosebumps if it is happy, spikes if it is angry, or just a timid response if it is sad and needs a hug.
The robot's skin covers a grid of texture units whose shapes change based on the robot's feelings.
"At the moment, most social robots express (their) internal state only by using facial expressions and gestures," said lead author Yuhan Hu, doctoral student at the Cornell University in the US.
"We believe that the integration of a texture-changing skin, combining both haptic (feel) and visual modalities, can thus significantly enhance the expressive spectrum of robots for social interaction," Yuhan Hu added.
The robot's design, presented at the International Conference on Soft Robotics in Livorno, Italy, features an array of two shapes, goosebumps and spikes, which map to different emotional states.
The actuation units for both shapes are integrated into texture modules, with fluidic chambers connecting bumps of the same kind.
The team tried two different actuation control systems, with minimising size and noise level a driving factor in both designs.
Future challenges include scaling the technology to fit into a self-contained robot -- whatever shape that robot takes -- and making the technology more responsive to the robot's immediate emotional changes.
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