This robot can sense how you’re feeling ― and let others know

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This robot can sense how you’re feeling ― and let others know

A fight with her boyfriend inspired a robot designer to create an emotionally friendly robot ― and she won an international award for her work.
Kwak So-na, a Ph.D. student in industrial design at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, received first prize for her emotive robot “Hamie” in the 2006 Robot Companion Design Contest for Students.
The event took place earlier this month as part of the Ro-man 2006/15th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, held at the University of Hertfordshire in England.
Ms. Kwak, 28, drafted the design for Hamie in 2000, when she temporarily broke up with her boyfriend after a huge quarrel. “I wanted to tell him that I wanted to see him again but I couldn’t find the courage to talk to him in person,” she said.
That’s when she designed the cute, stubby character to represent her feelings. She initially created two designs ― one as a hologram and one as a robot ― and was encouraged to develop the latter by her father, Kwak Yung-geun, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Korea institute and an expert in robotic science.
Hamie’s name comes from “hamster,” reflecting Ms. Kwak’s desire to create a tiny, friendly pet. The robot comes in three different materials: transparent acrylic, metal and rubber. “The texture is very important because this robot is an emotional product,” Ms. Kwak said.
Ms. Kwak said she has ideas for how Hamie will function, but they are only in a conceptual stage. “I’m a designer so I don’t do the actual engineering, but I believe that the concepts I have are technologically possible,” she said.
The main feature of Hamie will be its emotional gauge. The robot will recognize one’s pulse, and its flexible ears, for instance, will droop, perk up, or curve into a heart according to the user’s mood. Another idea for Hamie is that the color of the robot will change according to the user’s mood, Ms. Kwak said.
Hamies can be used to give other people to show them your feelings, Ms. Kwak said. She said that Hamies are different from cell phones because they are more advanced in ways of expressing oneself, rather than text messages.
Although Hamie does not function technically, the robot’s emotional powers have already been proven. The man who inspired Ms. Kwak’s vision in the first place is now her husband.

by Wohn Dong-hee
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