A Bot Named Aida

Every once in awhile we let a guest blog on an interesting topic here. That's the case this week with the following post from Alexis Bonari who writes about an in-car robot in development by MIT and VW. We've added in-blog links to some of the content being discussed by Alexis below.

The world of driving may soon be a far more exciting experience thanks to a personal in-car robot that is currently in development.

The Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (or Aida) will be able to tell you the most efficient route home based on traffic reports, remind you to pick up petrol and suggest places you may want to visit.

The robot, which sits on top of the dashboard, is being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with Volkswagen. Aida communicates with the driver through an expressive robotic screen and will even appear sympathetic if you're having a bad day.

Cynthia Breazeal, director of MIT's Personal Robots Group, said: "We are developing Aida to read the driver's mood from facial expression and other cues and respond in a socially appropriate and informative way."

Aida works by not only keeping track of common routes but also analyzing the driver's destinations and even their mobility patterns.

The creators have said the robot should be able to figure out work and home locations within a single week of driving with it. Soon after, the system will direct the driver to their preferred supermarket, suggesting a route that avoids traffic clogged roads. Aida might even recommend a petrol stop, while on your way to your destination, if the fuel tank is nearly empty.

The robot will also incorporate live information about local traffic jams, the weather report, commercial activity, tourist attractions, and residential areas.

"Aida embodies a new effort to make sense of these great amounts of data, harnessing our personal electronic devices as tools for behavioral support," said Professor Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's SENSEable City Lab.

"In developing Aida we asked ourselves how we could design a system that would offer the same kind of guidance as an informed and friendly companion...Aida can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behavior", Assaf Biderman from SENSEable City Lab added.

And over time, the project envisions something of a symbiotic relationship developing between the driver and Aida, wherein both parties learn from one another and will even establish an affective bond.

The project is a product of the collaborative effort between the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, MIT's SENSEable City Lab and the Volkswagen Group of America's Electronics Research Lab.

About the Author: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online colleges. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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