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My morning with Dora the robotic explorer

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David Gregory | 16:42 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

Dora the robot

I'll tell you a little truth about robots and television. They really don't mix. Especially robots and live television.

So sometimes in the name of getting a shot you ask if the robot you are filming could be made a little bit more cooperative. Which usually means turning off the robot's brain and putting it in "joystick mode" where it becomes a really expensive remote controlled toy.

But my morning with Dora was mostly spent with her thinking for herself. She really is a remarkable achievement even if not the prettiest of robots I've filmed.

The researchers from the University of Birmingham have spent four years on Dora. As they freely admit for them it's less about how a robot looks and more about how smart they can make it.

So Dora can map a room and look for objects or people. She's been programmed to be curious and to recognise what sort of room she's in. So if asked to find a magazine she'll start searching the living room first rather than the kitchen.

The aim is to produce robots that can cope in normal, chaotic human environments like our homes or offices. The project with Dora has now finished. But new research proposals are in and if successful the team want to build robots that can function for weeks and months at a time rather than hours.

You may one day find a daughter or Dora in a nursing home or working as a security guard in your office.

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