Stick with program

Robotics technology developed in the West Country has been used in a BBC documentary designed to help people get in shape and stay healthy.

Jake Shaw-Sutton with a Pepper robot that will feature in the BBC’s Six Robots and Us.

Six Robots and Us will air on BBC2 on Wednesday and Thursday, December 27 and 28, and explores how useful robots might be in enhancing the lives of ordinary families.

One of the six families to feature in the programme is from Torpoint, Cornwall, and they were joined at home by a robot developed by academics and technicians from the University of Plymouth.

Over the space of a month, it offered advice on food, fitness and a variety of other factors with the success of the experiment to be revealed when the programme airs.

For the documentary, a revolutionary Pep- per robot – rechristened FitBot – was pro- grammed by MEng Robotics graduate Jake Shaw-Sutton to stay in the home and interact with the family.

Jake, who is working as a robotics technician at the University, said: “We needed to create a robot that not only had personality but could also listen to what the family wanted and offer relevant advice. It meant developing new software which used keywords from search engines and then found solutions to diet and exercise queries which it felt would be most appropriate. It has been a really interesting experiment to be involved with.”

The University’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems has spent several years developing social robots, which aim to use cutting edge technology in a range of everyday settings.

This has included helping diabetic children accept the nature of their condition, and exploring the effectiveness of robots in teaching people a new language.

It has also involved the creation of a Robot Home, an interdisciplinary hub where the University’s international team can study human interaction with their family of robots.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.