Humanoid robot hopes to solve the uncanny valley phenomenon with its lifelike facial expressions

In a move to solve what scientists call the uncanny valley principle, a team of researchers at the University of Pisa developed a good-looking robot that can almost-perfectly mimic human expressions. In case you are wondering what the uncanny valley principle is, it’s actually a term for a phenomenon in the field of robotics that describes why we tend to feel uncomfortable each time a robot looks similar, but not quite realistic enough, to humans. A humanoid robot named FACE hopes to solve the uncanny valley by using a facial animation engine that allows realistic expressions.

The humanoid robot’s appearance is actually based on a real person who happens to be one of the researcher’s wives. To imitate the complex expression of facial muscles, the team installed 32 motors around the robot’s skull and upper torso. But that’s not all. Facial expressions are formed by using a combination of motor movements based on the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) – a system that codes facial expressions in terms of anatomic muscle movements. The robot’s facial animation engine, called Hybrid Engine for Facial Expressions Synthesis (HEFES), is used to control FACE’s expressions.

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