One of Hyundai’s recent concept cars was an electric vehicle named “45” in honor of its inspiration, another concept car from 45 years ago. When footage of a child-sized “Mini 45” surfaced, it was easy to conclude the car was a motorized toy for children. But Jalopnik got more information from Hyundai about this project, where we learned that was not nearly the whole picture.
The video (embedded below) explained this little vehicle is a concept car in its own right, and most of the video is a scripted performance illustrating their concept: using technology to help calm young patients in a hospital, reducing their anxiety as they faced treatment procedures. Mini 45 packs a lot more equipment than the toy cars available at our local store. The little driver’s heartbeat and breathing rate are monitored, and a camera analyzes facial expressions to gauge emotional stress. The onboard computer has an animated avatar who will try to connect with the patient, armed with tools like colorful animations, happy music, candy scent dispenser, and a bubble-blowing machine.
There are so many important design decisions behind a robot: battery, means of locomotion, and position sensing, to name a few. But at a library in Helsinki, one of the most surprising design features for a librarian’s assistant robot was googly eyes. A company called Futurice built a robot for the Oodi library and found that googly eyes were a very important component.
The eyes are not to help the robot see, because of course they aren’t functional — at least not in that way. However without the eyes, robot designers found that people had trouble relating to the service robot. In addition, the robot needed emotions that it could show using the eyes and various sounds along with motion. This was inspired, apparently, by Disney’s rules for animation. In particular, the eyes would fit the rule of “exaggeration.” The robot could look bored when it had no task, excited when it was helping people, and unhappy when people were not being cooperative.
Modeling machines off of biological patterns is the dry definition of biomimicry. For most people, this means the structure of robots and how they move, but Christine Sunu makes the argument that we should be thinking a lot more about how biomimicry has the power to make us feel something. Her talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference looks at what makes robots more than cold metal automatons. There is great power in designing to complement natural emotional reactions in humans — to make machines that feel alive.
We live in a world that is being filled with robots and increasingly these are breaking out of the confines of industrial automation to take a place side by side with humans. The key to making this work is to make robots that are recognizable as machines, yet intuitively accepted as being lifelike. It’s the buy-in that these robots are more than appliances, and Christine has boiled down the keys to unlocking these emotional reactions.
The bad news is that when our robot overlords come to oppress us, they’ll be able to tell how well they’re doing just by reading our facial expressions. The good news? Silly computer-vision-enhanced party games!
[Ricardo] wrote up a quickie demonstration, mostly powered by OpenCV and Microsoft’s Emotion API, that scores your ability to mimic emoticon faces. So when you get shown a devil-with-devilish-grin image, you’re supposed to make the same face convincingly enough to fool a neural network classifier. And hilarity ensues!
The Einstein robot (head only in this video) shows off the ability to recognize and mimic the facial emotions of the person in front of it. There is also video of a Bladerunner-esque robot looking around a room, recognizing and remembering the faces of the people it sees. [David] makes a very interesting proclamation: he’s trying to teach robots empathy. He feels that there is a mountain of R&D money going into robots that can kill and not much for those that can sense human emotions. His hope is that if we can teach empathy, we might not be annihilated when robots become smarter than us.
That’s not such a bad idea. Any way you look at it, this talk is interesting and we wish the five-minute offering was five-times as long. But [Mr. Hanson’s] facial hair alone is worth clicking through to see.
[Markus Kison] built a device called Pulse, which is part art installation and part data visualization tool. What the emotional visualization organism called Pulse actually does is scan new posts on Blogger.com blogs for synonyms of keywords related to 24 distinct emotions from eight emotional groups. A red cone in the center expands when keywords are detected, in effect acting as a mood indicator for Blogger.com blogs.
The 24 distinct emotions are based on [Robert Plutchik]’s psychoevolutionary theory of emotion, and the device itself is built from a glass case, various servo motors, and custom controller for the servos. This is a compelling idea, but we wonder whether it scans for modifying words or just the keywords alone. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to have the sadness region expand drastically if many people simultaneously post the sentence “I’m not sad at all.” Video embedded after the break.