When robotics turn personal

Published Nov 14, 2014

Sometimes when chores pile up - dinner needs to be on the table, laundry needs doing and home work needs to be checked - you might want to call for help. Soon you will be able to. Find out about Furhat Robotics, the robotic head that understands your feelings and facial expressions.

We are used to robots steering ships, building cars and even driving them, and things that were once revolutionary, innovative and exciting are now part of our everyday lives. But coming home to a robot that listens to you, understands your feelings and helps your children with their homework; that might seem quite surreal. Today. But it is only a matter of time before robots speak your language, understand you and react to what you say, at least if we have seen the innovation Furhat Robotics. Here technology is taken to its current limits and shows the way forward with its prize winning and personal robot head.

Furhat Robotics develop and offer an interactiv robot head that is leading the pack when it comes to design and function available on the market today. The hardware design is unique in the way that it uses real facial animations which allows the head to react and act in a realisitcally human way with natural facial expressions, movement and speech. Aside from developing the actual robot head, Furhat Robotics also develop software for voice recognition applications and facial expressions in order to give the robot head as much personality as possible. 

- We are exploring a market that has not existed before, and intend to develop technologies that facilitates the integration of personal robots into peoples' daily lives, says Samer Al Moubayed, co-founder of Furhat Robotics

From Friday Hack to Disney

When Samer Al Moubayed was taking his PhD at KTH he and his fellow students spent Friday afternoon on something they called "Friday Hack". The aim was to be as creative as possible, sharing and brainstorming ideas around the technologies they focused on in their research and coming up with ways to use them innovatively. They started elaborating on technologies they used in an EU project and soon realised that this was something they should take more seriously and not just fool around with during Friday Hack. That's how it all started. Furhat Robotics was founded by the three inventors behind the technology; Jonas Beskow, Gabriel Skantze and Samer Al Moubayed, all from KTH. Developing an interactive robot demands a wealth of expertise and the team is a great mix. Today Preben Wik has joined the team, a KTH alumni with extensive experience within chatbot technology. 

Lately the company has focused on pilot tests with customers to verify the technology. It has also established itself as a player to watch on the vibrant startup scene in Sweden, which took the Furhat technology all the way to the Disney Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh, USA. 

- Disney Research was interested in our research but also in what comes out of KTH in general, we are now trying to jointly develop applications with children via story telling, says Samer Al Moubayed.

Samer Al Moubayed was nominated during Mentor4Research on Thursday 13 November. He won the people's vote and best pitch of the evening. Fr. L. Mentor Sven Hammar, Samer Al Moubayed, Preben Wik and Tom Magnergård.

Believing in your idea

Tom Magnergård is a business coach at KTH Innovation and has supported and followed the development of Furhat Robotics for a long time. He emphasises the importance of entrepreneurs daring to believe in their idea and future vision, even at a very early stage. 

- Having limited resourses you have to focus on the right things and persevere, which has been a tough challenge for Furhat who are pioneers in social robotics.

The social robotics market is expected to grow considerably in the next few years. Still, Tom Magnergård believes that the robot head company has a great chance of establishing itself as an important player with many applications in the social robotics field.

- It is a complete joy to experience the energy that stems from a passion and dedication to create impact and drive change, he says.

Samer Al Moubayed also predicts a bright future for Furhat Robotics.

- Our goal right now is to prepare the technology for further development and we would welcome other competent research teams to join and develop the potential of Furhat together with us.

On Saturday 15th November the exibition "Forskning pågår" (Research in progress) opens at the National Museum of Science and Technology. Furhat Robotics is one of the exibits, find out more  here!

Want to find out more about Furhat? Visit their website  here!

Have you got an idea that you would like to discuss with us? Don't hesitate to contact us at  innovation@kth.se

Belongs to: KTH Innovation
Last changed: Nov 14, 2014