MIT’s online magazine Technology Review has a good short article reviewing the year in robotics, giving the highlights of the latest developments from 2009.
The piece has loads of links so you can read up, and sometimes see, the robots in action and it looks like giving robots ‘social skills’ to interact with humans has been a big area of progress:
The socialization of robots was an important area of research this year. Many researchers believe that giving robots social skills will make them better at assisting people in homes, schools, offices, and hospitals. Andrea Thomaz, a TR35 innovator for 2009, created robots that can learn simple grasping tasks from human instructors who use social cues, such as verbal instructions, gestures, and expressions.
Another robot, made by a group at Carnegie Mellon University, guides conversations by making “eye contact” to suggest that it’s time to speak (“Making Robots Give the Right Glances”). Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, created a machine-learning program that lets a robotic head develop better facial expressions. By looking in a mirror, the robot can analyze the way its motors move different parts of the face, and create new expressions (“A Robot that’s Learning to Smile”). And a virtual robot mimicked sneakiness, hiding in virtual shadows and darting between obstacles to remain undetected (“Modeling Sneaky Robots”).
Link to Tech Review Year in Robotics.