Nexi: The Media Lab's Latest Robot and Internet Star

MIT Media Lab has once again developed a new experimental robot with facial expressions. The robot called Nexi, can slant its eyebrows in anger or raise them in surprise. Nexi can also display a wide range of emotions to communicate in human-centric terms.

Nexi is reportedly aimed at a range of applications for personal robots and human-robot teamwork. Developed by a team headed by Media Lab’s Cynthia Breazeal, Nexi is part of a new product called an MDS (mobile, dextrous, social).

This team is also responsible for creating expressive robots such as Kismet. But unlike Kismet who is but a robot head, nexi is a full robot. Meaning it has a body. Nexi is what is called a complete mobile manipulator robot which is augemented with expressive abilities.

Nexi is designed to be mounted on self-balancing wheels such as the Segway transporter. However, Nexi currently uses an additional set of supportive wheels to operate as a steady platform in its early stage of development.

Nexi has hands to handle objects, eyes (video cameras), ears (a set of microphones), and a 3-D infrared camera and laser rangefinder to support real-time tracking of objects, people and voices as well as indoor navigation.

The Nexi project was spearheaded by the MIT Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group in collaboration with Prof. Rod Grupen at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and two MIT robotic spin-off companies. The project was originally funded by the Office of Naval Research Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) award.

The funding award was to develop a novel class of robots that can engage in advanced forms of peer-to-peer interactions with humans in uncertain environments. An ONR Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award intended to develop technologies and demonstrations for human-robot teams, specifically autonomous aerial robots in addition to the MDS robots. A number of MIT faculties are part of the MURI project, as well as collaborations with other faculties from Stanford, Vanderbilt, UMass-Amherst and University of Washington.

When Nexi debuted at YouTube, it became an instant sensation. The spot has been accessed over 70,000 times and received comments ranging from awe ("This robot seems more humane then most humans") to shock ("Creepy. Very creepy").

Image source:

Leave a Reply

Back to top