3D printing speeds up EMYS the emotional robot project
In coming decades humanoid robots will be part of our lives. But how can we live with robots and interactive companions?
LIREC (Living with Robots and Interactive Companions) is a five year EU-funded project aiming to create a new generation of interactive, emotionally intelligent companions that is capable of long-term relationships with humans. LIREC is a collaboration of 10 European partners specialised in psychology, ethology, human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, robotics and graphical characters.
The robotic head project, EMotive headY System (EMYS), was initiated by Professor Krzysztof Tchon and his team at the Department of Fundamental Cybernetics and Robotics at Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland. The idea is that robots could mimic human emotions and react appropriately to both soothing and irritating stimuli.
EMYS is divided into three parts (the brows, eyes, and lower jaw) and each moves separately to display a range of emotions including happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, weariness, and disgust. The head is mounted on a movable neck for purposes of objects searching, turning toward a user, and gazing.
The unique design required customized hardware and non-traditional construction. To find a solution, the team began looking for other ways to build EMYS prototypes. Compared to traditional milling or tooling methods, 3D printing allows people to get their custom parts quickly with much less cost. The team finally chose to use 3D printing for both prototyping and final parts.
EMYS's head and hands were fabricated using 3D printers with the help of Produkt Dizajn Studio, TF Construction, and Cad-Mech. Every EMYS cover element, including the head cover, the moving eyelids andthe connectors linking the eyes to the servomotors, were produced using the ProJet HD 3000 3D printer (now sold as the ProJet 3510) from 3D Systems in just some hours.
Then the 3D printed parts were assembled with the other mechanical parts and electronic components. In the end the head was painted for aesthetics. "It has been a great experience, turning ideas into real parts and allowing us to test concepts in just a few hours." said Prof Tchon. "The quality is unsurpassed."
After that, two additional heads were 3D printed and assembled and then delivered to the LIREC partners in Portugal and the UK. Watch below a video on EMYS, the next generation of expressive robotic head that shows its emotional responses.