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Israel Innovation Authority Allocates $20M for Next-Gen Human-Robot Interaction Research

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April 13, 2022

The Israel Innovation Authority has announced it allocated $20 million towards building a consortium of Israeli robotics companies to develop next-generation human-robot interaction (HRI) capabilities. Utilizing the Nimbus cloud robotics platform for managing and deploying new capabilities, the consortium will include private and academic organizations.

The authority said most of today’s robots are built for single-mission tasks. Looking at the future, robots are expected to engage with humans or conduct their work amongst greater populations, which will require them to assess social situations and converse via gesture languages for appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication with the people around them. For example, a robot might need to ask for human assistance after diagnosing that its camera is blocked, or getting directions from a human for the first time.

“A simple direction such as ‘Go right’ can be confusing for a robot that does not have the capability to understand human gestures,” said Yehuda Elmaliach, CEO of Cogniteam, which is leading the three-year project. “If given the direction ‘go right’ by a pedestrian, it must rapidly understand if it is the robot’s right or the right of the person who is giving directions. This consortium will change the perception of robots in social situations, ushering in a new era of robotics. Developing these verbal and gesture languages within ROS will have an easy integration using Nimbus for future businesses to rapidly utilize in their next-gen robots.”

The consortium will include companies and organizations such as Cogniteam, Elbit Systems, Robotican, ReWalk Robotics, Intuition Robotics, Seamless Vision, DLR, Ben Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, and others. The group plans to identify verbal and non-verbal communication that will be most helpful for new robots.

“Most people would not know how to feel if a service robot or collaborative robot approached them and asked for help,” said Eliahu Khalastchi, a research scientist at Cogniteam. “We want robots to know how to properly conduct themselves in a crowd and be capable of asking for assistance in a natural manner.”

Cogniteam said Nimbus was chosen for its drag-and-drop capabilities, with the platform available for enterprises and startups to leapfrog common development hurdles with a library of ready-to-go capabilities. The ability to synchronize with ROS and an additional HRI toolkit will help lower the barrier of entry for new companies into the expanding robotics market.

For more details on Cogniteam and the Nimbus platform, visit the company’s website here.

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