Robots are cool…and can be creepy. According to New Scientist, when it comes to making a “humanoid” robot there is such a thing as the “uncanny valley principle,” which is when the robot looks like a human but not realistic enough.
Researchers are trying to combat the feelings of unease that may come from seeing extremely life-like robots by making them more attractive and with realistic facial expressions.
Enter FACE. A humanoid robot developed by Nicole Lazzeri and colleagues at the University of Pisa in Italy. Here’s more from New Scientist on how the researches created the realistic expressions:
To mimic the myriad expressions that facial muscles are capable of achieving, the team placed 32 motors around FACE’s skull and upper torso that manipulate its polymer skin in the same way that real muscles do.
To create expressions they used a combination of motor movements based on the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) – a system created over 30 years ago which codes facial expressions in terms of anatomic muscle movements.
This, in combination with Hybrid Engine for Facial Expressions Synthesis, allows for an algorithm to work out the expression — even a combination of expressions — to be exhibited by FACE. Using 15 autistic and non-autistic children to evaluate the success of the program, the team found that emotions like happiness and anger were easy to identify but disgust and surprise were harder.
Check out the simulation for yourself:
“It’s really realistic,” New Scientist reported Lazzeri saying.
What did you think? Realistic? At all creepy?
Also, just in case you’re wondering if FACE was inspired by the looks of any real human person. She was — one of the team member’s wife.