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MIT researchers developing AIDA – a robotic driving companion

November 2, 2009

MIT researchers developing AIDA – a robotic driving companion

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced that its scientists are working to develop a robot dubbed the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA) that is designed to sit in motor vehicles. According to MIT, the team hopes the robot can help change the way people interact with their vehicle. The AIDA team, along with partners Audi and the Volkswagen Group of America’s Electronics Research Lab, is designing the robot to be embedded in the vehicle’s dashboard, pulling in real-time information from the internet about traffic, and about businesses and gas stations along the driver’s route.

The robot is programmed to remember the driver’s usual routes to and from work and other regular destinations such as the local grocery story. AIDA will also monitor the driver’s facial expressions for signs of fatigue or agitation. “With the ubiquity of sensors and mobile computers, information about our surroundings is ever abundant,” says Professor Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab. “AIDA embodies a new effort to make sense of these great amounts of data, harnessing our personal electronic devices as tools for behavioral support. 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.”

The robot is designed to communicate with drivers through visual cues such as winks or smiles, as well as verbally offering up information on alternate routes or vehicle fuel levels. “When it merges knowledge about the city with an understanding of the driver’s priorities and needs, AIDA can make important inferences,” says Assaf Biderman, associate director of the SENSEable City Lab. “Within a week, AIDA will have figured out your home and work location. AIDA can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behavior.” Over time, the project envisions that a kind of symbiotic relationship will develop between the driver and AIDA, whereby both parties learn from each other and establish an affective bond.

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