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Winking robot nav head knows where you're going

MIT and Volkswagen develop the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA), a friendly and predictive robot to assist drivers with daily navigation.

AIDA in Audi
MIT's concept robot head mounts on the dashboard to assist with navigation. MIT

MIT intends to revolutionize GPS navigation by making it friendly and predictive, using a friendly robot helper to anticipate your needs. The Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA) is a robot head on an articulated neck, reminiscent of movie robots from the 1980s, that mounts in the center of the dashboard.

It incorporates an expressive "face" that can smile, look sad, show warning signs, and even wink at you. AIDA was developed as a collaboration between the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, MIT's SENSEable City Lab, and Volkswagen Group of America's Electronics Research Lab.

AIDA's expressive behaviors are designed to endear the device to you as it helps in your daily navigation. The robot learns your daily commute and which areas you frequent for which purposes.

For example, if you always head to a particular district in your city around dinner time, it will assume you like to eat dinner there. After it memorizes your commute, it will automatically plug in your route to work when you get into the car on a weekday morning. If you go to a hotel for a dalliance every Thursday at noon, it will probably give you a wink and a knowing grin as it maps the route for you.

AIDA robot head
AIDA's robot head can show warning signs. MIT

More crucially, it takes in data about local events and traffic conditions, and will route around those potential obstructions. It looks at the condition of your car, and might include a stop at a gas station if your tank is low.

Current navigation systems include many of these functions. Traffic data and detouring is included in cars such as the Ford Taurus. And traffic data aggregators such as Inrix and Navteq include event data to let you know when there's a game at the local stadium, for example.

Nissan also showed off a robotic assistant in its Pivo 2 concept car at the 2008 Geneva auto show.

The photos MIT released of AIDA mounted in an Audi appear to be rendered, so we assume it hasn't progressed to the stage of working prototype, but we will keep an eye on the Audi booths at upcoming auto shows, looking for a winking robot head.