London, May 23 : A Canadian researcher has created a robot rabbit that communicates with humans through touch.
Steve Yohanan of the Vancouver-based University of British Columbia calls his robot the Haptic Creature.
He has revealed that his robot is being used to probe the way touch, scientifically known as haptics, may bolster robots' emotional relationships with humans.
He pointed out that most robotics researchers neglect touch, and concentrate more on vision and sound instead.
According to him, missing out tactility has a detrimental effect on the quality of the robot-human interaction.
"I'm trying to provide a deeper experience by adding touch," New Scientist quoted Yohanan as saying.
"I had a cat for many years, and what I miss most about interacting with her is touch. For example, the cat would sit in my lap while I worked at the computer - I would scratch the top of her head and feel her purr," he added.
Yohanan's robot is around 35cm long, and has shorter fur on its belly and the back of its two "ears".
Pressure sensors installed in it enable the Haptic Creature to detect the way it is touched or stroked.
The robot can only respond with breathing movements of its body, inaudible purring vibrations, or by moving its ears.
Yohanan, however, insists that even such simple responses to touch can elicit a range of emotions in humans.
"Our preliminary investigation showed participants could identify most of the emotional responses (across a scale from negative to positive)," he said.
Yohanan made a presentation on the Haptic Creature at the Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB) 2008 Convention in Aberdeen, Scotland in April.