Qatar university installs robotic receptionist

New addition can speak English and Arabic, will soon be able to recognise human facial expressions
By Shane McGinley
Mon 29 Apr 2013 12:04 PM

A Qatar university has installed a robotic receptionist, which talks in English and Arabic, and which will soon be able to read human facial expressions when new upgrades are installed.

The new roboceptionist, which is named HALA, has been installed at the reception of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar.

“We are in the process of designing a new body that will make her more portable. If and when we do so, we will be able to take her into the community,” Majd Sakr, Associate Teaching Professor of Computer Science at CMU-Q said.

“We have been busy deploying and administering an experiment to measure human perception of politeness versus directness across two groups, native Arabic and native English speakers. Preliminary observations look promising but we’re still analysing the data.

“HALA was not built to be portable. However, we are considering designing a new body that will make her more portable. If and when we do so, we will be able to take her into the community," he added.

The team behind the project is also looking to upgrade HALA so she can recognise human facial expressions.

“What we have found so far is that expressions for positive emotions are easy to identify, however, negative emotions (sadness, anger, disappointment) are harder to recognise. More interestingly, accents in expressions of disappointment seem to be culturally driven,” said Sakr.

According to HALA’s online profile on the university’s website, her educational qualifications include a B.Sc. in Weather Prediction and a Ph.D. in Rejecting Marriage Proposals.

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