Many Hollywood movies have made a lot of money banking on robot characters programmed to think and act like humans. Robots in non-fictional world, however, are still regarded as machines that do not think or understand any emotion. Many do not even have physical make-up that mimics those of the humans but a new robot developed by a group of researchers in United Kingdom may just be able to change how we see robots in the near future.
A group of researchers at the Engineered Arts in Penryn, U.K. led by Will Jackson has developed a talking robot that can display any face and guess your age. It may not have a deep understanding of emotion but it is equipped with the ability to identify moods based on a person's gestures.
The 60 cm-high robot named SociBot Mini has a depth-sensing camera that is used to capture and recognize a person's gestures and facial expressions. It also comes with chatbot software that gives it limited ability to understand speech and hold conversations.
As for the robot's face, it is made up of transparent plastic with contours for the eyes, nose and mouth and because the face is part display, the SociBot can wear any person's face and animate it. Plymouth University researcher Tony Belpaeme said this could spice up dull conference calls.
"Two dimensional video conferences are quite impoverished experiences. There is still something missing and so we prefer to meet real people," Belpaeme said. "Having a robot in which your face is projected, carrying all the right expressive signals, will provide an immensely strong presence, even though it will seem uncanny at first."
Engineered Arts plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign for SociBot. If the campaign hits its goal, the company will release a cheaper and slimmer version of the robot. If you can't wait and want to own the SociBot Mini now though, you can have it for £9,500.
"Socibot uses projective head technology, which we have now combined with a sophisticated mesh mapping algorithm, meaning your robot can have any face you desire - even your own," Engineered Arts described the robot on its website. "Expressions and features are easy to modify and control. With voice recognition, facial tracking, lip-syncing, and speech synthesis in more than twenty languages, anyone can converse freely with our chattiest robot!"