Robot has Lifelike Facial Expressions

We’ve written before about engineers’ attempts to make robots (specifically, rescue robots) less creepy. Now some roboticists in Italy are developing a robotic bust that can mimic human facial expressions in order to help cross the “uncanny valley”— the principle that robots that look kind-of human, but not quite, can make people feel very uncomfortable.

The Hybrid Engine for Facial Expressions Synthesis (HEFES), developed by researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy, is a facial animation engine that can give realistic expressions to the group’s FACE robot. FACE includes 32 motors that manipulate its polymer skin, much the same way facial muscles control our own expressions.

In a somewhat novel approach to testing the system’s effectiveness, the researchers asked both autistic and non-autistic children to identify the robot’s expressions. Both groups were able to identify happiness, anger, and sadness (but not always fear, disgust and surprise).

I’m not sure they’ve been entirely successful. FACE still looks a bit disturbing to me, depending on which expressions the robot is projecting. You can judge for yourself in the videos below:

Source: New Scientist

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