French researchers have developed "an autobiographical memory" for a robot, the only permanent member onboard the International Space Station (ISS), which will help it pass on key information to astronauts who change every six months.
French researchers have developed “an autobiographical memory” for a robot, the only permanent member onboard the International Space Station (ISS), which will help it pass on key information to astronauts who change every six months.
In order for a robot to understand cooperative behaviour, which is necessary for the cultural transmission of knowledge, researchers developed a system whereby a human agent can teach the ‘Nao humanoid’ new actions through physical demonstration, or voice command.
These individual actions are then combined into procedures and stored in the robot’s autobiographical memory developed by researchers, thus enabling the robot, which is the only permanent member, to reproduce them for other human agents if needed.
Researchers from the Institut cellule souche et cerveau (Inserm/Universite Claude Bernard Lyon) set up this autobiographical memory system to meet the challenge of cooperation between humans and robots, which is becoming more and more of a reality in the field of space operations, with the humanoid Robonaut 2 now permanently flying aboard the ISS.
“The transmission of information on board is essential, since crews change every six months. In this scenario, an electronic card is damaged,” said senior researcher Peter Ford Dominey.
Nao plays the role of the scientist’s assistant by following his directions, bringing or holding parts of the card during repair.
If this same failure happens again, the memory of this event will enable the robot to use a video system to show the repair that was made to a new member of the crew.
It could also respond to questions regarding the previous event, while helping with the new repair.
If a slightly different failure takes place, the robot could share its expertise on failures of this type, while recording the steps needed to resolve this new problem and then transferring them to the scientists in the next crew.
These results demonstrate the feasibility of this system, and show that such humanoid robots represent a potential solution for the accumulation and transfer of knowledge.
Researchers are now hoping to test their Nao robot in the real conditions of space operations, with zero gravity. They would also like to develop another area of application, assisting the elderly, with the robot this time playing the role of a personal memory aid.
Robonaut 2 is a humanoid robot resulting from the Robonaut programme, a close collaboration between NASA and DARPA.
A unit was delivered to the ISS in February 2011 to control the robot’s operation in weightlessness.
It was designed to assist the work of astronauts in complicated situations, especially during extra-vehicular outings.