An adaptive robotic lighting assistant for fluent teamwork

AUR is a robotic desk lamp, a collaborative lighting assistant. It’s a non-anthropomorphic robotic platform, demonstrating human-robot interaction that happens seamlessly, in the background, illuminating the right thing at the right time. We envision robotic lamps to play a role in future operating rooms, mechanic workshops, and anywhere where an extra hand holding a light is called for.

AUR is used to explore the intersection of human-robot fluency, embodiment, and nonverbal behavior.The lamp’s design was conceived around an existing 5-DoF robotic arm, and is aimed to evoke a personal relationship with the human partner.

Fluency is also relevant in live performance, such as theater. AUR has performed in a unique <a href=””>human-robot joint theater performance</a> in May 2007.

AUR serves as a research platform investigating notions of fluency, embodiment, and nonverbal behavior. While two humans performing an activity together quickly arrive at a high level of coordination and adaptation, in particular when they are well-accustomed to the task and to each other. This research tries to achieve a similar quality of collaboration between a human and a robot.

We support a complete-system, embodied approach to robot cognition. Following a host of neuro-cognitive research supporting a perceptual-symbol approach, we have developed an perceptual-symbol-based cognitive architecture for fluent human-robot interaction, using perceptual simulation and anticipatory emulation. Through it, the robot learns from repetitive practice, and increasingly coordinates its actions with those of a human partner through the alteration of perceptual bias during motor action.


In studies, we found significant differences in the efficiency and fluency of the teamwork, when comparing our architecture to a purely reactive robot with similar capabilities. We also found significant differences the attitude of the human subjects towards the robot, rating it as more intelligent, contributing more to the team, and understanding the human’s goals better. There were interesting differences in the language used to describe the robot. For example, only when the robot used our fluency mechanisms did people attribute gender to the robot. They also rated the robot more positively.

AUR was designed around an existing 5-DoF robotic arm, using a two-way evolutionary prototyping approach. The process went back-and-forth between mechanical, material, form, and interaction design, until the final version was built. See design gallery.

The lamp is aimed to evoke a personal relationship with the human partner without resorting to creature-like features such as eyes, limbs, or a mouth. By retaining the lamp’s “objectness”, we hope to explore the relationship that can be maintained between a human and an object through abstract gestures and nonverbal behavior alone.

On a more general note, we believe that robot design for HRI is bound to express itself as a separate field charting an interdisciplinary course on the brink of mechanical, electronic, product, human-factors, interaction, and animation design. Currently robot design is a predominantly grassroots activity, performed by a loosely selected collection of graduate students, mechanical, electrical, and computer engineers.

In August 2007, AUR won the Gold Prize in the IEEE RO-MAN 2007 Robot Design Competition.




A robotic desk lamp for fluent collaboration and lighting!