Ever paid a visit to the uncanny valley? The next adventure down that road might end up even creepier than usual, as roboticists are working on a way to make robots even more lifelike by observing the techniques used by actors, animators and dancers to keep us humans entertained – and as they say, life imitates art, in this case which robotic life might apply as well. Imagine the 50cm tall Nao humanoid robot in a mask – don’t you think he would be adorable? However, with just a couple of lights for eyes and a pinhole of a mouth, it would definitely fail at convincing the audience that he is trying to express himself through his facial contortions.
Julien Gorrias, a “behavioural architect” at Aldebaran Robotics in Paris, France, decided that expressive body movements would solve this niggling issue, and he says, “The whole body was involved in making the mask live. You have to feel like it is someone,” he says. “Not a human, but someone.” Cartoons and the dance arts will also bring robots to a totally new level in their interaction with us humans, and perhaps, one day we might just go to a theatre not for the novelty value of seeing robots act in a play, but simply because they are able to evoke emotions on a human level despite being like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.