London, Nov 13 : In the pursuit to create a more 'life-like' robot, researchers have created a realistic robot head that can mimic human facial expressions, thus making communication more human-like.
Robotics engineers at the University of Bristol, UK, actually made a copycat robotic head, called Jules, which can mimic the facial expressions and lip movements of a human being.
Jules is an animatronic head produced by US roboticist David Hanson, New Scientist reports.
Honson builds uniquely expressive, disembodied heads with flexible rubber skin that is moved by 34 servo motors.
A video camera picks human face movements, and then maps them onto the tiny electronic motors in Jules'' skin.
The researchers developed their own software to transfer expressions recorded by the video camera into commands so that the servos produce similarly realistic facial movements.
But, as the robot''s motors are not similar to human facial muscles, the researchers filmed an actor making a variety of expressions indicating, say, "happiness."
Then, an expert animator selected 10 frames showing different variations of the expression and manually set the servos in Jules''s face to match.
Later, the researchers created software that can translate what it sees on video into equivalent settings of Jules''s facial motors. Now, the robot can do this in real time, at 25 frames per second.
This the first copycat robot heads with realistic human-looking faces. As human communication is very much dependent on facial expressions, robots that can mimic them well can find much wider application.
He has speculated that this would make them useful in healthcare settings, such as nursing homes.