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Here come the robots: From Oxford University debates, to homework help

They might not be gearing up for world domination, but two recent developments in robotics are resulting in this tech becoming more useful and impactful on everyday life.

March 2nd will see the “world’s most advanced social robot” taking part in a panel discussion in front of Oxford University Students from the Saïd Business School.

Swedish robot Furhat will join in the debate about how the role of robots in business is evolving. The robot can speak, listen, show emotion as it reacts to what’s going on around it and make eye contact.

It was unveiled late last year with its makers using a wide-angle, high fidelity camera and beam-forming stereo microphones to give it situational awareness.  The company says that Furhat can “serve customers, provide companionship, train employees or teach a language. The only limit is your own imagination”.

It comes with a selection of pre-built expressions and gestures which can be further customised to fit any character. And it has changeable masks so users can either choose from the standard ones, or create their own for a completely personalised robot-persona. “When you change mask, the robot’s persona will change with it,” the firm said.

All of which might be enough to distract its audience if it doesn’t say anything that impressive during the debate.

The other interesting robot story we heard about was about one with less of a personality and was intended by the robot’s owner to be a little more private, even if it didn’t quite work out that way.

The South China Morning Post reported that a schoolgirl was found to be using a robot to do her homework. The ninth-grader in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, had bought the CNY800 ($120) device by saving money she’d got as Lunar New Year gifts in order to get it to complete her handwriting homework assignments.

The software allows the user to create a font replicating their own handwriting, and the robot was therefore able to complete an entire holiday’s worth of homework in just two days.

Whilst just a small news story, this indicates a Gen Z attitude of embracing robotic tech to help them in their daily lives, meaning an increasingly receptive audience for these future developments.

CES 2019 saw big tech brands showcase their investments in robots for home. Read more tech futures in WGSN’s round-up of the conference: CES 2019: Top Technology Trends

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