In the effort to make robots more competent to complete tasks humans can do, researchers have focused on developing robotic senses. Tactile and vision systems have made robots even more sensitive than human senses alone could be, and now researchers in Japan have introduced a system to help robots hear better. Researchers aim to teach the robot how to determine not only what sounds it can hear but which ones are important.
HEARBO Robot Has Superhearing
by Angelica Lim
The beamforming approach is widely used, but HEARBO takes the beamforming approach a step further. What about when the TV is on, the kids are playing on one side of the room, and the doorbell rings? Can our robot butler detect that? HEARBO researchers say it can, using their own 3-step paradigm: localization, separation, and recognition. This system, called HARK, lets you recover the original sounds from a mixture based on where the sounds are coming from. Their reasoning is that “noise” shouldn’t just be suppressed, but be separated out and then analyzed afterwards, since the definition of noise is highly dependent on the situation. For example, a crying baby may be considered noise, or it may convey very important information.
At IROS 2012, Keisuke Nakamura of HRI-JP presented his new super-resolution sound source localization algorithm, which allows sounds to be detected to within 1-degree of accuracy. For example, it could precisely detect the location of a human calling for help in a disaster situation.
Using the methods developed by Kazuhiro Nakadai’s team at HRI-JP, up to four different simultaneous sounds or voices can be detected and recognized in practice. Theoretically, with eight microphones, up to seven different sound sources can be separated and recognized at once, something that humans with two ears cannot do.
Read the full article at IEEE Spectrum. What applications could you see for a super-hearing robot? Will researchers ever find a reason to develop a sense of taste?