Innovation

A robot with a political agenda? You should see his poker face


Robots with facial expressionsWould you be more apt to communicate with a robot if it made facial expressions? That's exactly what a university research team in Japan believes, and the team is well on the way to creating it. Take a look at the story on CNET Networks' News.com: "Japanese robot likes sushi, fears president."

Here's the lowdown:

Japan's latest robot, called Kansei and created by a university research team, can pull up to 36 different facial expressions based on a program which creates word associations from a self-updating online database of 500,000 keywords. The English keywords then trigger the most appropriate facial expression, which ranges from happiness to sadness, anger and fear.

As the title of the news story indicates, Kansei has a fairly common response when it hears the word "president."

When the robot hears the word "president," the online database picks up associated words such as "Bush," "war," and "Iraq" and creates an expression which the researchers said is meant to mix fear and disgust.

Do you agree with project leader Junichi Takeno, a professor at Meiji University's School of Science and Technology, that relevant facial expressions are "going to be a key to improving communication between humans and robots," or is this just a cutsie marketing ploy to help sell an expensive new gadget? Join the discussion.

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the several blogs.

4 comments
Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

A robot in Japan is able to create 36 different facial expressions, which the university research team believes will help improve robot communications with humans. Do you think that relevant facial expressions actually help communication, or is this just a cutsie marketing ploy to help sell an expensive new gadget?

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I have Asperger's Syndrome. As part of my AS, I also have a condition called 'face blindness'. I have difficulty in spotting facial expressions. I am told that my expressions often do not match what I am trying to convey. I see this as a wonderful potential learning tool for people like me. I should mention that with time and STUDYING facial expressions, my abilities have improved slightly. I imagine that haveing an actual face to review expressions of, and being able to score against would be quite valuable.

tokunbo007
tokunbo007

lets say 'relevant facial expressions' is just to make the 'robot' as human as possible. Next is: what is the definition of 'relevant facial expressions'? are there some expressions that aren't relevant? 'relevant' to robots or to humans.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

What's relevant to one person may not be relevant to another. For example, take the response that the robot has to the president. What if you really like the president? The robot and human in this case may get in a huge political debate. LOL

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