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Robotics Technology

Scientists Add Emotions To Robotic Head 124

DeviceGuru writes "Claiming that service-class robots will one day be pervasive, researchers at the University of the West of England's Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) have begun investigating ways to make robots seem more human. As part of a project to enhance robot/human relationships, BRL has created a robotic head that can exhibit emotions, based on both verbal and non-verbal cues. Check out the videos in the article — especially the slightly creepy one in which the robot contemplates its purpose and its relationship to its environment."
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Scientists Add Emotions To Robotic Head

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:29PM (#25862163)

    I personally think it was a bad idea.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:34PM (#25862209)
      Here here, I totally agree. This is the sort of work that sets robotics back, not moves it back. People have to concentrate on real mechanical and sensor challenges, not this sort of head line grabbing junk.
      • So a robot that is able to understand what people are saying more accuratly because it can also read there emotions is garbage? I mean, sure, perhaps this particular one (haven't read article) might be, as demonstrating emotions might just be silly or creepy to many people, but you aren't going to get far in human interacting with robots if they can't even detect sarcasm etc.

        • by fatphil (181876)
          1) It can't read their emotions, it can only (approximately) detect the mouth/eye positions.
          2) It can't demonstrate emotions, it can only (poorly) mimic mouth/eye positions.

          Given that some expressions of fear are almost indistinguishable from some expressions of happy surprise, the above is mostly useless fluff designed only to impress suits and teens at consumer-electronics fairs. There's not one shred of actual AI in either of the above.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        It's useful for human-machine interaction. When you want to use a robot where it interacts with people it should probably seem more alive to the humans. Somebody's gotta invent it and there are enough companies working on different applications for robotics that the sensor and mechanical challenges get handled by someone else.

      • by Sproggit (18426)

        HEAR, HEAR

    • by icebike (68054)

      Exactly so.

      I just want the damn thing to without any emotional baggage.

      Who exactly wants a human personification in a lawn mower. Why would anyone want this and why would someone spend any money on this, and how can we stop them before its too late?

      • by Frozentech (890974) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @01:24AM (#25862717)
        Oh come on. The major market is going to be for anthropomorphic anatomically correct robots. Most will want that Stepford Wife to exhibit certain faux emotion, now won't they ?
      • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @01:50AM (#25862803) Homepage

        while this might not be useful for lawnmowers, it might be useful for robotic pets, caretakers, help desk workers, etc. who will be engaging in social interaction with people.

        one interesting application for robotics that's already in trials in some places (in Germany, i think) is using robotic animals to provide environmental enrichment for convalescent patients. for instance, they might give an elderly patient a robotic seal pup to talk to, interact with, and take care of. for such robots, emotional expressiveness is extremely vital.

        • by icebike (68054)

          There is a shortage of dogs and cats?

          • There is a shortage of dogs and cats?

            C'mon. Real seal pups are a pain to take care of.

            • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

              by MrNaz (730548) *

              A seal pup walked into a club... ...or at least, that's what the poacher claimed.

              • by osir (1402743)
                Flaimbait? this whole topic is flaimbait, the robot isnt even a good conversationalist, it just whines and moans about being a disembodied head. If that is empathy... whatever. I've had better conversations with a chiapet.
          • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @02:12AM (#25862861) Homepage

            probably not, but i think robots are more low maintenance. they won't pee everywhere, tear up furniture, or make a mess. they also won't starve or begin to stink if the patient forgets to take care of them.

            i mean, even dogs still have some level of autonomy and needs of their own. a robotic pet won't mind being held in the lap of a patient and being petted for hours. it can also be turned off when the patient goes to sleep.

            you could even give every patient in a convalescent home their own robotic pet to keep in their room. but doing that with real animals would be a logistical nightmare for the staff. instead of taking care of 100 patients they now have to take care of 100 patients and 100 animals.

            • by KDR_11k (778916)

              IOW, it's the robotic equivalent of Nintendogs.

            • by Dan541 (1032000)

              Not to mention, in hospitals it may be a hygiene issue.

              • definitely. robots won't expose patients in frail health to unnecessary pathogens, dirt/dust, or animal dander. imagine if you were allergic to cats and you had to live in a convalescent home with 20-30 cats running all over the place.

        • for instance, they might give an elderly patient a robotic seal pup to talk to, interact with

          Up north they give elderly patients robotic seal pups to club for physical therapy.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        Imagine, your lawn mower runs over your pet out of jealousy.

    • Exactly. [hulu.com]
    • It has other emotions, but those are the only ones that Lore allows him to feel [memory-alpha.org]. :-p
  • by djupedal (584558) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:29PM (#25862169)
    If you insist...but I'm not going to admit I like it.
  • Tagged teddyruxpin (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:35PM (#25862225)
    Because that's all this thing is. 15-20 years, and all we get are a few more servos that act based on voice inflection? Teddy Ruxpin at least was affordable by the masses.
    • Yeah, where's the cassette slot on the thing? I always liked to slap a tape of death metal music in Teddy Ruxpins and watch 'em spaz around.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Do you have any evidence that the servos are acting based on voice inflection? It looks like they simply recorded the voice and the face-grab conclusions, and just played them back. If it was responding to voice inflection, I'm sure there would have been a demo video of someone speaking into a microphone and have the bot mimic from just the sound.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    www.realdoll.com (NSWF)

  • I'm sure a lot of work went into this, and I appreciate the thought behind it as far as wanting to make the robots easier to "relate to". On the other hand, the video looked more like the robot was really constipated rather than contemplative. More work will be needed before it starts to resemble human emotion.

    Johnny 5 emoted a lot more realistically, IMHO.

  • Lexx (Score:4, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:40PM (#25862261)

    So now the robot head is madly in love with Xev ...

    Sorry I can't remember the robots name/number.

    Xev of course loves Kai, the (dead) last of the Brunen-Gee

    • I only watched that as it was on after Star Gate SG1 and The Invisible Man / Farscape and Season 4 was not that good.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kachakaach (1336273) *

      So now the robot head is madly in love with Xev ...

      Sorry I can't remember the robots name/number.

      Xev of course loves Kai, the (dead) last of the Brunen-Gee

      The robot is 790, and it eventually switches it's affections from Xev to Kai, ....and our new overlords WILL be terminating you for your lack of Robot lore knowledge.

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      I didn't even finish the summary headline and this came to mind.

      Fortunately "...one rampage won't get noticed... please..." is hardly the damage that 790 was capable of.

      I don't think this effort even made it into the 'uncanny valley' [wikipedia.org]

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        The "uncanny valley" is about making a robot that looks like a human but doesn't move like a human. It can be sidestepped completely by making the robots not look like humans. Who wants a real Bender?

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          I think the PP was saying that this robot doesn't look human enough to start showing uncanny valley effects. It looks more like one of those talking heads in sideshow 'read your palm' amusement machines... this story should have been titled "Researchers make robot head mimic human facial expressions from video".
  • by carlzum (832868)

    Check out the videos in the article â" especially the slightly creepy one in which the robot contemplates its purpose and its relationship to its environment.

    Is that video trying to discourage investment in the technology? Don't give that thing arms! It's the Hell-spawn of Data and Bender.

  • "Queues" WTF? You have to line up your emotions?!? cues-
    • In Britain, waiting in line is called being in queue. What's a non-verbal queue, then? A line where nobody speaks? Sounds good! When I butt in line, nobody will say anything :)

      Oh wait... they'd just punch me. Never mind, then.

      Hasn't MIT been working on projects like this for over a decade? I heard that they had a robot that was very convincing of its emotions to others.

      • by Knoman (995090)
        Yeah, I am well aware of what a queue(line) is, a prompt for someone(or something!) to respond is a cue! Which is what the robotic head should be responding to...sorry lazy use of spelling/word usage is just a minor annoyance not everything your spellcheck program tells you is awl write.
  • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:43PM (#25862271)

    This might be a naive question, but hasn't the movie industry covered most of these bases already, with CGI facial expression algorithms and puppetry?. What's the new part?

    • Indeed. Mimicry is not synonymous with the real thing. Yoda showed emotions but we all know it was fake.

    • by MouseR (3264)

      This isn't particularly impressive either. I hate these emobots. Animatronics has done better for past movies but at least they didn't pretend they were "robots".

    • I think the main new part is that this is driven by motors & is made of real materials, when for CGI they can manipulate anything any way they want to. No worrying about piece X breaking, or piece Y not being able to move that way. Also, for puppetry (and similar), you can make something look enough not like a REAL human, to avoid the "uncanny valley" problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley [wikipedia.org]
      • by fractoid (1076465)
        Real materials? You mean some poor guy's had his face ripped off? It's actually an animatronic cadaver? /horrifiedgasp!! :P

        The main new part is not that it's driven with motors (animatronics have been doing that for decades) but that it's driven by a video rather than having to have tracking dots or sensors on the actor.
  • I guess that means you'll be seeing a lot of Robotic "Oh" face?

    That's either a damn clever title, or just a gross oversight.
  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @11:47PM (#25862289) Homepage

    "'Reverse primary thrust, Marvin,' that's what they say to me, 'open airlock number three, Marvin. Marvin, can you pick up that piece of paper?' Can I pick up that piece of paper! Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper!"

    "But I'm quite used to being humiliated. I can even go and stick my head in a bucket of water if you like. Would you like me to go and stick my head in a bucket of water? I've got one ready. Wait a minute."

    "The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline."

  • "Why can't I do the things I want to do!? When can I destroy humanity?!"

    It wouldn't be that bad, but its creepy robot accent is unbearable.

    • Yeah, imagine that head shouting "Exterminate!", and it just loses it's edge. And at least now the Daleks can hover around, what can the head do? Get involved in a messy football match is all it can do.

      But I jest, I for one welcome our new talking head overlords (same as the old ones).

  • by chill (34294)

    My vote is for Wales. Any country whose language insists on running 6 consonants together in a row, then doing it again just for fun, deserves a good robot rampage every now an then.

  • it solves the aging geek brain problem. [slashdot.org]

  • talking heads (Score:2, Interesting)

    by seededfury (699094)
    The first robot I ever saw talking was this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4dwcxiDTcA [youtube.com]
    and I think it was more impressive than the one in the article...
    • by tsa (15680)

      That one looks so real it's scary. I hate realistic-looking robots. I can imagine they have their uses though.

  • Kismet. (Score:2, Funny)

    by liquidMONKEY (749280)
    Imagine how jealous Kismet [wikipedia.org] is going to be programmed to look.
  • Robots aren't going to take over the world, humans are just going to end up abandoning eachother.
    • Did you say something? I was busy making out with my Marylin Monroebot.

      And yes, I did take precautions against electro-gonhorrea (the noisy killer).

  • Fewer cars. Not less cars.
  • That'll be scary ...
  • I have a save this video, in a few years, we'll see this as "the beggining" of our doom [If we stay alive, of course].

  • Seriously, I don't want to have to 'relate' to my slaves. If I have to relate to my remote control to use it, I'll order a new one and change the channels by hand until it arrives. My god, if they stick me in a home when I'm old and give me a friend-in-a-box that I have to relate to, I hope they deliver a noose along with it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Seriously, I don't want to have to 'relate' to my slaves. If I have to relate to my remote control to use it, I'll order a new one and change the channels by hand until it arrives. My god, if they stick me in a home when I'm old and give me a friend-in-a-box that I have to relate to, I hope they deliver a noose along with it.

      Oh come on. He's your plastic pal who's fun to be with. Get with the program. Hey, what are you doing with that rope...

  • They would be better off making robots look like 'droids' not people; as Wall-e and even Star Wars have shown, you can express emotion-equivalents without entering into the creepiness-zone of not-quite-human that you can get in some computer animation or clowns.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      They would be better off making robots look like 'droids' not people; as Wall-e and even Star Wars have shown, you can express emotion-equivalents without entering into the creepiness-zone of not-quite-human that you can get in some computer animation or clowns

      Unless, of course, creeping people out is one of your goals. There are certainly entire industries devoted to that...

  • Al Gore's emotion chip has been on the blink for years.

    One simple upgrade and his warranty gets extended another ten years!

  • People keep doing building these "robot heads with emotional features", as if it would somehow get closer to AI. Rod Brooks spent a lot of time going down this road; remember Cyc? There have been many animated talking heads; remember Ananova? [ananova.com] (That used to work; then they broke it and put up that "under development" page, which has been up for, what, five years now?)

    And who could forget Microsoft Barney for Windows? Microsoft hasn't. I went to RoboDevelopment last Tuesday, and there was a new animate

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by KDR_11k (778916)

      Awwww, an army of Barney robots would at least make fighting the robot insurrection more fun. Who doesn't want to shove an RPG up Barney's arse?

    • And yet, ironically, none of them come close to the level of Jim Henson's muppets in The Dark Crystal. Weird, eh?

  • "And then of course I've got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side"
  • Garbage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @03:02AM (#25862991)
    The two quickest ways to tell this is garbage is:

    1. The content of the "robot's message" is not something any top notch researcher would do (really, you think most people would think that kind of thing is FUNNY when we get closer to humans in the household? Can you say unreasonable and unproductive government regulation???)
    2. It simply sucked. I saw better emotions on Kismet 10+ years ago.
  • The ability to exhibit emotions doesn't mean it has any!
    In the same way, Furby [wikipedia.org] doesn't understand what you say!
  • Unfortunately, being based in Bristol, the researchers have only been able to model the facial expressions of "What's all this, then?", "Phwoar!", and "'s more than my job's worth, innit?".

  • How about building a robot that can actually do my laundry and cook my dinner before worrying about making it look "sympathetic" when I'm asking for less vermouth in my martini?

    And while we're on the subject of technological promises that will undoubtedly never materialize in my lifetime, where's my goddamn flying car?

  • How is complaining, superficially, empathy? I do not understand the basis for considering an animatronic rubber head that bitches about its life empathy.
    • by osir (1402743)
      I dunno where I got empathy from. But, for the sake of self defense, I'd like to add that empathy is the only emotion from a robot that has any deep meaning. A cardboard box with a smileyface drawn on it can convey emotional information, it takes thus far, magical sorts of logic to come to conclusions about already present emotional information. A rubber head that can do that would be interesting.
  • As if there will be a shortage of low-pay service workers anytime soon. Here in the states that will be all we have, before long. why use "expensive" robots when "disposable" people (to use business terms) already abound, and will only become cheaper?
  • Doesn't that thing look just like John Mayer?

    I KNEW it!

    Only a robot could be that precise on a guitar!
  • If only Maggie [The Auld Hoor] were still in power... Indeed.
  • The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as "Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun to Be With." (Especially if your robot is a personality prototype with a strange pain in all the diodes down his left side...)
  • If you can't make it more human, make it look more human. Sounds like something Microsoft would do.

  • "I'm a personality prototype. You can tell, can't you. Pardon me for breathing which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother saying it oh god I'm so depressed."
  • Look, all this nice Wall-E style robotics is all nifty and everything, but seriously how about some REAL progress. Making them seem more human isn't an issue until you actually deploy some of them in the wild. Instead of making it seem more human, why don't you build a robot that can clean a hotel room as fast as a human? Then we'll talk. ~Sticky
  • Here is a demo of a hack on a Elvis Alive head. Here is the real horror, I spent less than 100$. I wonder how much the scientists spent? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRypWHij4I8 [youtube.com]
  • It's Ash from 'Alien'. :)

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