Tübingen – The launch of robotic behavior orchestration software Playful was a success, after it was recently published in IEEE Robotics & Automation. The software allows reactive and interruptible behavior in robots, so they can quickly react to their constantly changing environment. Vincent Berenz is the developer of this software for the creation of lively and reactive robotic etiquette.
"Advanced humanoid robots are no longer science fiction. In Japan they are now casually found in hotel lobby, in airports and shops. But too often their behaviors are limited to scripted motion and vocal interactions. Despite their fully articulated body, they do not really provide any services beyond those already given by AI assistants such Siri or Alexa. The robots just stand there.", says Berenz. Ever since he started his career as a scientific software engineer, he wondered how consumer marker commercial robot could be used to their full potential, by interacting reactively with human, and acting as naturally and lively as them. “The problem is the lack of suitable orchestration software, i.e. software that helps programmers to setup each functionality in a coordinated way so that the robot´s behavior appears natural”, Berenz explains.
Creating a robot behavior that is dynamic and lively, i.e. the robot is sensing its environment, planning its next move and acting all at the same time, is very challenging. “Existing robotic middleware allows engineers to design behavior graphs by organizing communication between components. But because these graphs are structurally inflexible, they hardly support the development of complex reactive behavior. My objective was to provide a new software that makes it easy to get the robot to move continuously based on what is happening. The result is a thin layer that can be placed on top of any Python robotic API, including ROS and NaoQi”, Berenz says.
Berenz has been developing Playful for five years. The outcome is the first software that applies reactive programming to behavior orchestration. “Playful is a five keywords programming language. It allows developers to organize the logic of activation in reactive behaviour trees. It is easy to use and results in the robot performing lively behaviors.
Playful has been recently published and is now available for free for academia, for commercial usage however it is licensed under Max Planck Innovation.
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Vincent Berenz is a Scientific Software Engineer in the Autonomous Motion Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen. He is a roboticist, who specializes in developing well structured code that brings robot to life. His research focuses on usability, reliability and deployment of service robots. Ten years he has invested in developing several robotic software, one of them being Playful.