A robot that can teach itself how to smile

In February we told you about a robot Einstein head from Hanson Robotics that could (somewhat creepily) mimic human facial expressions. Thanks to a complex 31-motor mechanism and a skin-like material dubbed "Frubber," the fake Einstein could show everything from happiness to surprise, via preprogrammed movements. Now researchers from the University of California, San Diego, are upgrading its creation with the ability to analyze its own facial movements. Put in front of a mirror, the more it moves, the more it learns about the expressions it can create — eventually teaching itself how to express anger and sadness all on its own. Check out this video for the results.

The UCSD researchers say they were guided by how babies babble to learn words. An apt beginning, since this development could be a precursor to machines that lip read, potentially leading to things like automatic transcription of speeches, easier closed captioning, and the HAL 9000 plotting against its human colleages. Hm, maybe it's more of an ironic beginning…

Technology Review, via KurzweilAI.net