David Hanson is a robot designer and engineer who spent the past decade trying to create robots with character; ones that are able to empathize, understand speech and eventually begin to module how a person is actually feeling, so that relationships between humans and robots can be built.
Hanson’s biggest creation in the robotic world was building technologies that allow robots to make more realistic facial expressions, like “Frubber,” as well as appear more human. Hanson’s discoveries have now sparked a new development at the University of California San Diego’s machine lab that is being used to understand brain development.
After the USCD lab received funding from the National Science Foundation to contract Kokoro Co. Ltd., a Japanese company dedicated to creating robots, and Hanson Robotics, it began its experiment to build a replicate robot based on a one year old baby. The results are astonishing, and quite frankly, a revolution for the robotics world and science.
The baby robot can make a range of emotional expression through smiling, frowning, crying, surprise and anger. Its facial expressions are portrayed through the robots eyes widening for surprise, scrunching for anger or even twinkling for happiness.
The baby robot is larger than a regular one year old, being the fact it stands at about 4 feet 3inches and weighs 66 pounds. With a total of 44 pneumatic joints, its head alone contains about 27 moving parts.
This latest development from UCSD adequately shows how different fields of science and technological advancements are fusing together to make even larger leaps of achievements in different areas, even such critical ones as brain development.
Image Via gizmag
"Its main goal is to try and understand the development of sensory motor intelligence from a computational point of view," said Dr. Javier Movellan, head of the UCSD Machine Perception Lab. "It brings together researchers in developmental psychology, machine learning, neuroscience, computer vision and robotics. Basically we are trying to understand the computational problems that a baby’s brain faces when learning to move its own body and use it to interact with the physical and social worlds."
Its human-like skin is what adds to the realness factor of the robot, which allows it to make its various facial expressions. The skin technology is patented by Hanson Robotics’, known as “Frubber,” or flesh rubber, which is a spongy, elastic polymer that mimics the movement of real human musculature and skin.
While UCSD is working on its baby robot, the University of Zurich’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory plans on releasing its robot toddler, “Roboy,” later this year.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo