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Are we more comfortable with robots with faces?

Two robots that can alter their facial expressions and make some basic gestures are being tested out by researchers at the University of Lincoln.

They are trying to work out if people feel more comfortable interacting with a robot if it looks as though it has a basic grasp of human emotions.

In the future the team hopes the study could lead to a new generation of robots that are capable of building relationships with people as James Webster reports.

Scientist: We are developing robots capable of relationships with humans

One of the scientists studying the reactions of people to robots that display facial expressions says this should allow the development of robots capable of relationships with humans. Dr John Murray hopes the research shows them more about how people react to different types of android:


Research could allow humans to develop robot relationships

Scientists at the University of Lincoln who are testing two new robots hope the project leads to a new generation of androids that humans feel more comfortable interacting with. They are looking at how new robots can be designed to show emotion to allow people to trust and understand them better.

The project team say such new robots could act as companions, perhaps working with the elderly, or with children with conditions such as autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder. Existing robots lack identifiable human characteristics that prevent humans developing a bond with them.

Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce 'characteristics' and 'personalities' to the robot. If we can explain how human-to-human long-term relationships begin and develop, then it would be easier to plan the human-robot relationship. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognise users' emotions and needs and to act accordingly ... the robot needs to form a 'long-term' relationship with its users, which is possible by continuous interactions and the robot having its own personality and characteristics.

– PhD student Mriganka Biswas

Scientists will compare the effects of giving robots facial expressions and gestures with how people react to a robot which has no 'emotional' expression.

Scientists in Lincoln test robots with facial expressions

ERWIN the robot at the University of Lincoln Credit: ITV News

Two very different robots, capable of expressing emotions, are being tested at the University of Lincoln to see what responses they provoke from people. One can display five different facial expressions including happy, sad or surprised. The other can move its head and arms to create gestures.

HS2 Board meeting in Sheffield

HS2 talks on how it can benefit the region

The HS2 Ltd Board is meeting with local business, transport and council representatives in Sheffield today.

They will discuss the merits of a city centre high speed rail station, developing a joint approach to skills, and how the wider region can benefit from this major infrastructure investment.

The Board will also be hearing about regeneration opportunities at Meadowhall and how transport connections across the region could be improved.


Cleaner buses for Sheffield

Sheffield's new clean energy bus Credit: Stagecoach Yorkshire

Buses in Sheffield are switching from diesel to cleaner engine fuels following a £1 million investment.

Clean Bus Technology Funding from the Department of Transport is being used to retrofit five Stagecoach vehicles with dedicated Compressed Natural Gas engines, which will run on biomethane.

The scheme, which has been part-funded by Stagecoach in Sheffield, will reduce engine noise by 50 per cent, deliver carbon savings of between 85 and 140 per cent and ensure the virtual elimination of particulate matter from exhausts.

It will also create increased jobs and apprenticeships at equipment suppliers including city-based Chesterfield Special Cylinders.

Five Euro IV Optare Solo buses will be fitted with the Natural Gas Engines and will operate along Stagecoach’s SL2 and 35a routes.

The hilly routes, which create an increase in emissions because the vehicles are working at capacity,are within the city's Air Quality Management Area and provide an important link to StagecoachSupertram serving the city centre, Hillsborough, universities and Meadowhall.

The investment also includes the installation of a Compressed Natural Gas refuelling station at Stagecoach’s Ecclesfield depot.

Sheffield City Council led the Clean Bus Technology Fund bid in partnership with Stagecoach as part of the Sheffield Bus Partnership

The scheme will start in the new year when work will to retrofit the vehicles is complete.

Countdown for £3.9m Humber Bridge repair works begins

General view of the Humber Bridge Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

The countdown is on for the £3.9m repairs to the Humber Bridge. One lane over the bridge will be closed for the repair works, which include replacing four steel frames to strengthen the landmark crossing. The work is expected to start on October 28 and will last 40 weeks

"We appreciate that customers will be worried that this work could affect traffic flow in and around the Humber Bridge toll area but we want to stress that we are doing all we can to minimise any impact.

At peak times we will have three approach lanes and three toll booths open in each direction, as at present. We will only reduce this to two lanes or possibly one at the quietest times during nights and weekend when the work make this essential for safety."

Peter Hill, Bridgemaster

  1. National

More than 3.6m tweets about One Direction premiere

Twitter UK has confirmed more than 3.6 million tweets were posted on Twitter about One Direction and the One Direction world premiere in London.

One Direction is the most followed UK band on Twitter with more than 14 million followers.

Twitter revealed that the hashtag #1DMoviePremiere was used more than 1.9 million times over the last 24 hours.

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