Boğaziçi University Research Team Develops the First Multiple Social Robot System (July 9, 2015)

Turkey’s first multiple social robot system has been developed in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AILAB) of Boğaziçi University by a team of Ph.D. and Master’s degree students led by Professor H. Levent Akın, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and lecturer in the Computer Engineering Department.

The multi-robot tour guide team is the first of its kind. The multi-robot team is led by “Turgay,” whose name comes from the Turkish pronunciation of “tour guide,” plus AI, the acronym for Artificial Intelligence. Turgay is assisted by humanoid tour guide robots. Designed to interact with humans, Turgay will be the first social robot in Turkey to have the capacity to understand human speech and communicate in various languages. Turgay will be able to work with humans and guide tours with the help of its social intelligence.

Robot Turgay and Its Friends Will Work Together

Professor Akın explained that he and his team had set out with the aim of developing humanoid robots with social intelligence. The robots would have the capacity to adjust to environments such as hospitals, universities, and museums where there are dense crowds and movement is quite fast. He said, “Our work led to the development of Robot Turgay, a first in the world. Turgay is the leader of the first multiple robots application. Now, our objective is to incorporate more robots into the system and improve our project. Our multi-robot team of Turgay and friends will start working in the university’s laboratories first. We aim to have the robots give tours to groups of visitors in cooperation with each other and also work in harmony with students, lecturers, and staff while carrying out their tasks.”

Robots to Share Social Life with Humans

“Due to the rapid developments taking place in the robot industry, very soon robots will participate in social life together with humans,” Akın said. “At that point, controlling robots in environments like hospitals or universities where the dynamics of human crowds and motions change rapidly becomes a serious challenge. In our project, when a robot receives its job assignment, it will contact the tour group and lead the tour. The robot will plan the beginning and end of the tour. Equipped with the capacity to communicate with humans, the robots will be able to get along with the visiting groups. In other words, they will be a part of our social life.” Explaining that there is a division of labor and communication among robots, Akın pointed to another important point: robots share tasks in line with their area of expertise and act as a team.

Yiğit Yıldırım, a graduate student working on the roadmap model of the robot system as part of his thesis, stated that they aim to enable the robots to move without disturbing people in crowded environments and that they have been trying to integrate this system in Turgay first.

Multilingual Van Gogh

Turgay is the first robot to have had all of its parts and design developed in the laboratories of the Boğaziçi University Computer Engineering Department. Turgay can be adapted to any exhibition or museum environment; it can communicate in different languages, and even use the inflections appropriate for each language. Another feature of Turgay is that it has the face of Vincent Van Gogh. İbrahim Özcan, a graduate student involved in the development of the project, explained that he decided to give Turgay a face from the world of art as the robot will be conducting tours in museums. 

Building Robots by the Mentor System

Berna Erden, a senior at Boğaziçi University and a member of the project, said that developing a robot involves a mentor system, a kind of master-apprentice relationship. “Professors, doctoral students, Master’s degree students, and undergraduate students all work together at all times. A lot of information is not to be found in books; we learn by experience, by working alongside our ‘masters,’ Ph.D. students Okan Aşık and Binnur Gören are important members of the team; they are working on building software for the decision-making mechanism and use of body language. Three Master’s degree students, Yiğit Yıldırım, İbrahim Özcan, and Bahar İrfan, as well as Yasemin Usta, an undergraduate student in her senior year, also participated in the project.”