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'Socially Aware' Robot Studies Behavior Of Stanford Students

STANFORD (KPIX 5) -- There's a robot roaming around the Stanford campus, but instead of taking orders from students, this machine is busy studying them.

Like many students at Stanford, "Jackrabbot" gets around on wheels, too. While students here pursue their studies, Jackrabbot studies them.

"This is Jackrabbot, a socially aware robot," explained Stanford Research Scientist Alexandre Alahi.

Equipped with sensors and cameras, Jackrabbot roams around Stanford, picking up cues about human behavior and learning how to be polite.

"We want the robot to understand what is this personal space that humans like to preserve," said Alahi.

KPIX 5 cameras caught one such interaction. Instead of stopping or going between the couple having a conversation, Jackrabbot goes around.

Right now, Research Scientists with Stanford's Computational Vision and Geometry Lab control the movement in order to train the robot how to act.

"So we collect a bunch of data and we give that to robot. It's like a child," said Stanford Ph.D student

Amir Sadeghian. "The child sees things and it learns to do the same thing. We gather the data and the models are trained based on this data"

Jackrabbot's creators say soon enough, autonomous robots will be everywhere, making deliveries, helping the elderly and interacting with humans on a daily basis.

"That's the dream of any human, to have a robot like a pet," said Sadeghian. "They can talk to them they can interact with them, Yeah, that's the dream."

"I want to shake his hand," one Stanford student said during an encounter with Jackrabbot.

The scientists say they plan to add arms so that one day when humans go in for a hug, it might just be able to hug back.

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