I once heard Esther Jungreis, the famous speaker and writer, say that ‘one’s face is like a billboard, so smile.’ When you think about this it rings very true, especially in the world of robotics. For example, if an elderly home would implement a robotic help mate that looked like the Terminator it would literally scare its patients to death.
At the University of Pisa (Italy) researcher Nicole Lazzeri has made a major breakthrough in bridging the gap between humans and humanoids. Lazzeri’s robot, nicknamed FACE, has a remarkable ability to bring to life human emotions in this wax museum-like figure. FACE utilizes 32 motors under a polymer skin that surrounds its head and upper body. It also leverages a 30-year-old programming application called “Facial Action Coding System (FACS)” that is able to “code expressions into anatomic muscle movements.” The emotional vocabulary of FACE today includes: anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise and fear. Lazzeri’s team tested the robots accuracy by asking five autistic and 15 non-autistic children to identifly FACE’s emotions. Apparently both groups had no problems identifying anger, sadness and happiness, however disgust, fear and surprise were still inconsistent.
FACE illustrates that human connections and our ability to form bonds, even robots, come down to basic trust, eye contact, and possibly a firm metallic handshake.