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Boffins strive for the touchy-feely robot

Social skills classes for the awkward cyborg

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A research group at the University of Hertfordshire has taught a robot to play pass the parcel in a bid to make electronic friends of the future seem more human.

Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, project leader at Hertfordshire told The BBC that it is important that Robots be able to understand the human concept of personal space, and be able to deal with people as individuals with different cultural backgrounds and preferences.

She said: "I want robots to treat humans as human beings, and not like other robots."

The stated aim of this particular area of research, part of the European Cogniron robotics project, is to socialise robots so that they can mix better with humans. It will codify its findings into a set of rules for human-robot social interaction.

However, even the researchers admit that they might be a bit ahead of the game, and are "assuming a situation in which a useful human companion robot already exists".

But a bigger question remains: even assuming we do want a robotic companion in our homes, will we want to play pass the parcel with it? ®

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