The Concept

Kortus [pronounced courteous] is a civil robot programmed to interact with citizens. It would use an empathy module capable of recognizing and understanding human emotions, and it would help make life better in our city.

The Background

I recently created an empathic drone/vehicle with Adolfo Esquivel called the Metropolis. It was designed to patrol the city’s streets and interact with its citizen like a friendly police officer. That particular concept featured a holographic avatar like the one seen in the 80’s movie TRON. This time around I wanted to create a friendly-looking humanoid robot instead. I teamed up with Juan Garcia Mansilla and I got some inspiration from the work of Pascal Fung, who is developing an empathy module for robots.

How it works

Kortus would measure 5’ 10’’ and walk like a human (see what Boston Dynamics accomplished with it’s newest version of the Atlas Robot). Its main function would be to assist the public and tourists asking for directions or city highlights. It would also clean up the city by picking up small litter on the sidewalk and patrol streets by casually walking on the sidewalks and looking out for potential problems. It would be able to alert existing services (medical, police, firefighters, urban) when their assistance is needed. It would be powered by a super capacitor battery capable of recharging itself simply by passing near wireless inductive charging stations used by city buses.

Kortus’s face would have an OLED screen and display simple emotions to communicate with people and it would speak too! On the robot’s body, multiple cameras would be used to record and act as an eyewitness to events. Most importantly, Kortus would be capable of detecting human emotions by voice analysis, facial recognition, heartbeat and other metrics.

To paraphrase Miss Fung, <<We are conceptualizing an empathetic robot that will be able to recognize and detect meanings and intent during conversations with humans, from their speech, language, facial expressions and context. Therefore the Kortus will be able to recognize if and when the human is being sarcastic or joking, or if it’s in distress and needs comforting.>>

Each Kortus would react slightly differently, since they would adapt based on their daily encounters with the public. Their voice tones would integrate local slang words and even be capable of humor. They would always be polite and friendly. Social workers would supervise and guide them during their shifts and even become “friends” with each one because they would be able to carry on personal conversations.

What it’s used for

Each Kortus on the street means that city officials can work on more important assignments. With their night vision cameras, infrared sensors and electric noses (to detect gas and chemical), they will be able to not only serve citizens and keep the city clean, but also protect us from dangers (for example, spotting wanted criminals, finding missing childs, or detecting gas leaks). They will be able to decrease tensions during events and add a cheerful feeling to the streets.

The Designer

The Kortus concept was developed in collaboration with Juan Garcia Mansilla, an Industrial Designer from Argentina. Juan graduated from the University of Buenos Aires in 2012 and currently works as a senior designer for a product design firm and as a freelancer. He also created the design of the Beeonic a robotic bee capable of pollinating flowers and crops and the Canopi six-wheel-drive vehicle capable of travelling over trees.