Theater arts lecturer Julienne Greer really wants a robot.
But it’s not just any robot – it’s Pepper, an emotionally responsive humanoid robot whose sole purpose is to interact with people, according to a university press release.
“I think we’re already well past the point where humans and technologies interact,” Greer said. “Technology is a part of our life."
SoftBank revealed Pepper in Japan in June 2014. Greer said the robot should only cost $1,900 and she’s currently writing a grant to get one before they become available in the U.S. in summer of 2015.
"In my opinion, this is just the very next step and people in western culture need to become more comfortable with having a robot in the room,” Greer said.
Greer has put her experience in the theater realm to use in the field of robotics with her recent paper, “Building emotional authenticity between humans and robots.” Greer presented her paper at the sixth International Conference on Social Robotics in Sydney last month.
“Really what it is, is taking decades of method work, performance technique and using it to create the most authentic relationship between the human being and a robot,” Greer said.
Because of UTA’s support of the theater department and dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Greer’s article has been picked up by many science websites and she has been invited to speak at another robotics show next October in London.
“It seems to be picking up some speed,” Greer said. “ I would love to be able to have my robot as soon as possible."
Greer found a great deal of interest and excitement from engineers and other professionals at the conference about what she could bring to their field, she said. Greer said many roboticists are looking for the human element when creating human, robot interactions.
“Now, since this work is going into a much more hard science discipline, the testing has to be there,” Greer said.
Theater department chairman Kim LaFontaine said Greer has strong visionary skills and knows how to balance the left and right brain.
"Her success lies in her being able to bring people together," Lafontaine said.
Greer said the end game for her work is exciting because nobody knows where it’s going. She said robots will be in homes in a few decades or sooner and that a humanities approach will be important to that.