Tony Ellis is an award-winning #Inventor who has been lauded for his work in electronics, robotics and toys. He has created and/or licensed over sixty products such as "Cube World" by Mattel. Born and raised in the UK, Tony was fascinated by #robots since early childhood. He trained as an engineer and initially designed security systems, alarms for vehicles, and GPS systems when the #technology was still fledgling. Tony is currently the CEO of Conceptioneering Ltd., an innovative and tech-savvy design production company, and he is now focusing his attentions on robotics via his company Applied Machine Intelligence Ltd., where he specifically focuses on the processes behind artificial intelligence (AI).

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Abilities 

Through software, Tony can program robots to have speech recognition capabilities, vision, movement and--most recently--emotional intelligence. Tony is currently working on giving his ALTAIR robots—which he named in ode to the “Forbidden Planet” film—the ability to determine human emotion based on facial analysis. Essentially, the robots will be able to understand five expressions: Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Surprise and Neutral. "I use a dedicated processor for face detection and recognition, emotion, age and gender estimation," Tony explained. "The robots are infused with many sensors and they can also display emotion though the movement of their arms, mouths and eyes. There are actually thirty-two different eye movements at the moment." As inventors, Tony and his team frequently have brain-storming sessions where they consider what could be done next.

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Although robots infused with emotion recognition might be useful to the toy industry, Tony is now centering his interests on personal assistant robotics. “I think it is essential that that robots be able to understand human emotions and react appropriately since this is the one area that can help in humans understanding and accepting robots in the future,” he stated. The acceptance of robots is certainly something that must be embraced noting that domestic helper robots are estimated to become commonplace household items by 2026. These “personal robots” will be capable of doing basic chores such as loading and unloading dishwashers, vacuuming floors, ironing, serving and cooking meals, providing security and offering companionship.

Potential 

Intelligent humanoid robots have already been introduced to senior citizen centers in Japan and garnered positive feedback. Service industries are also prime locations for robotic expansion. As Tony noted, “We are already seeing robotics appearing in fast food establishments like burger and pizza places since these jobs are not too difficult to robotically automate.” Yet what truly interests Tony is the concept of using robots to serve as companions to humans.

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To do this, robots must be able to understand human emotions and emote similar reactions in order to build feelings of empathy and trust. “This is the basis of human/machine interaction—what we call HMI,” Tony declared. “Artificial Intelligence is the next missing link and advances in this field are now happening rapidly.” 

Future 

Despite working with robotics for over four decades, Tony is still excited whenever he witnesses one of the machines that he designed and built interacting with its surroundings. When he first started out, robots were very basic but the past few years have yielded incredible breakthroughs and Tony is actively working on developing more innovative abilities in the very near future. “These machines have the capability to take over the mundane, repetitive, boring and unsafe jobs that humans really do not want to do,” he proclaimed. “They can also enable space exploration to expand further into our solar system to explore and find valuable extra resources that our planet needs. The possibilities are truly remarkable.” Tony hopes to place his ALTAIR robots into retail stores in the very near future and is currently seeking investors to aid the process.