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It resembles science fiction: a robot that helps physically disabled seniors to interact in social situations. If it’s up to researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), in a few years’ time this will be a reality. The researchers have received a grant totalling EUR 3 million for the TERESA (Telepresence Reinforcement-Learning Social Agent) project, of which almost EUR 800,000 was awarded to the UvA under the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

EuropeanUnion-Flickr-CreativeCommons-© European Union 2013 - European Parliament.


The objective of the TERESA project – led by UvA researcher Shimon Whiteson in collaboration with Maarten van Someren – is to develop a socially intelligent telepresence robotic system enabling people to communicate with others by remotely operating a robot. The TERESA system enables the robot to navigate automatically among groups of people, act in a socially acceptable manner and adopt an acceptable attitude while interacting with people without the operator having to instruct the robot to do so.

Many people live in isolation as a result of mobility problems or because they have become immobile due to illness. TERESA's socially intelligent telepresence options will enable them to maintain their social contacts remotely.

Enhanced technology

To achieve these objectives, cognitive robot system technology will need to be enhanced. Not only do the researchers aim to gain new insights into the normative social behaviour of robots but they are also devising new algorithms to help interpret social behaviour, navigate in human environments and monitor posture in a socially intelligent manner.

The project is being conducted in association with various partners, including the University of Twente, Imperial College London and Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville. 

The European Commission grant totals EUR 3 million. The UvA has been awarded EUR 780,000 in its role of coordinating partner.

For further information about the project, contact Jacco Konijn.