SBIR Phase I: A Novel Human Robot Interaction System Using Affective Theory-of-Mind Computing to Improve User-Responses and Efficacy of Automated Tutoring

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Hanson Robokind And Intelligent Bots LLC
10515 Lennox Lane
Dallas, TX 75229
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project advances artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics by developing the foundation for emotionally responsive systems. Building on Theory of Mind research in psychology and robotics, this project focuses on enhancing a robot's capacity to integrate two pieces of information in order to determine a third piece. These inferences can be concrete or as abstract as conjectures about another agent's - including a human user's -beliefs, desires, and intentions. The project creates a framework for the robot's AI system to maintain several competing models of the world (particles) and select and modify those models that have a higher likelihood of matching the real world (filtering). This method of "Particle Filtering" is an effective strategy or navigating complex environments. The core research focuses on adapting and assessing particle filtering methods within abstract contexts including knowledge, emotional, and goal states. If successful, as the robot gains additional information through sensors and language processing, it will adapt its models of the users' emotional state and adjust its interactions accordingly. Essentially, this integrative framework will enable robots to understand human desires and frustrations to find creative solutions in response to those needs. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the evolution of an Artificial Intelligence interface that emulates an empathic human-to-human experience. Because the system will represent and track multiple dimensions about a human user, the robot can recognize when a user is confused or frustrated and respond accordingly. This intuitive, naturalistic AI platform has substantial research, education, and therapeutic applications and commercialization channels. With its open source software infrastructure and the relative low-cost of the platform, the initial commercial targets are as a platform for robust Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and as therapeutic technology for children and adults on the autism spectrum.