Scientists add emotions to robotic head

Published Nov 20, 2008 — 12040 views

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.

Just as PCs are now common in households, workplaces, and parts of our environment, BRL expects “service-class” robotic devices to become “a pervasive element of our future society.” This will represent a “huge opportunity for life enhancement and commercial exploitation,” the lab adds.

Typical occupations for tomorrow’s robotic underlings are expected to include:

  • Aids for the elderly
  • Domestic servants
  • Tour guides
  • Hotel porters
  • Non beer-drinking “assistants” on construction sites
  • Leisure/gaming robots
  • Numerous military roles
  • “…and so on”

Since service-class robots will occupy environments that contain people, there’s a fundamental need for them to interact in an easy and natural manner with their human companions, BRL notes.

Making robots more personable

In light of the emerging need for humans and robots to interact comfortably, BRL is investigating several technologies believed to be crucial to successful human/robot relationships. These include ways for service-class robots to show “emotion,” using both verbal and non-verbal cues.

“The aim is to generate facial behavior in a humanoid robot head, so that if a person speaks to the robot, the person would feel listened to in a sympathetic way,” explains BRL.

“This will require ‘theory of mind’ models as well as dynamic emotional models,” adds the Lab. “Our particular interest is in how, and to what extent one can achieve the illusion of psychological attending and understanding even though it lacks ‘true’ intelligence. We aim to find new approaches towards enhancing human-likeness by generating genuine, non-repetitive facial behaviour that conveys a certain underlying emotional state.”

Videos of BRL’s prototype empathetic robotic head

How’s that research going? Below are a pair of videos that showcase BRL’s current prototype of an “empathetic” humanoid robotic head. Enjoy!



BRL’s robotic head contemplates its purpose
(Click image to play video)


Some of the technology behind BRL’s empathetic robotic
(Click image to play video)

[Notes: the second video currently appears to have a problem with its audio track; a high-resolution version of the first video is available for download here (48MB avi file).]

That first video is a bit creepy, eh?

For further information on this research, visit the Bristol Robotics Laboratory website.

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6 responses to “Scientists add emotions to robotic head”

  1. Matias says:

    Cool post 🙂

  2. fuffuf says:

    nice, but it still seems so clearly unaware of the camera.

    i instantly recognize it’s eyes are just rolling about instead of really fixing on something, and that reveals it’s artificial natures immediately.

  3. Winner says:

    This is fake right?

  4. Checho says:

    I’m assuming the robotic head did not contemplate all of that on its own, right? I mean, would scientists really keep a robot head that talks about destroying humanity? Or a robot who is easily bored?

  5. me-nobot says:

    Pretty lame. I’d expect 10th graders with mr flavian’s science class to do as well with a cabbage pitch kid.

  6. Julian says:

    +1 for lame. He opens his mouth like a puppet.