Bringing together seven academic institutions across Europe led by the University of Plymouth, as well as a hospital in Milan that hopes to use the robots in the rehabilitation of young patients, the multimillion-pound project - funded by the European Commission - was described by the Economic and Social Research Council last year as one of the 10 most influential pieces of research in the UK today.
The 20 robots being developed across the partnership each weigh 4.3kg and stand 58cm tall. Researchers hope to overcome the limitations of traditional on-board processors and enable the robots to store information and modify their behaviour accordingly.
This would then allow them to sustain what project leader Tony Belpaeme calls "believable, in-depth social relationships with young users". They may eventually replace animals as companions for children hospitalised for long-term conditions such as diabetes.
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