One of the most famous science fiction movies is Ex Machina, where the distance between a human being and a machine is increasingly blurred, and we are about to see it also in reality due to the work of a team of Japanese researchers who have created a kind of android child.
Specifically, a team of researchers from the RIKEN Guardian Robot project in Japan have been able to create an android child named Nikola who is capable of showing up to six hyper-realistic facial expressions among which are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.
To be able to do this, this humanoid robot is equipped with 29 pneumatic actuators capable of controlling the movements of the facial muscles , which are supported by six additional actuators to move the head and eyes.
In order to be able to guess the situation of all these actuators for the different facial expressions, they used the so-called Facial Action Coding System (FACS) capable of specifying which biological facial action units are used in the expression of specific emotions.
In addition, these actuators work with air, which allows them to operate smoothly and silently, thus making facial expressions that do not seem made by a machine.
RIKEN Guardian Robot Project
Once the technology was created, they tested all the expressions of the android child in a laboratory with different volunteers who tried to identify which emotions he was showing at each moment.
Although all the facial expressions were recognized by most of the participants, they did find the “disgust” one more difficult to interpret, basically because the robot’s material did not wrinkle as easily as human skin.
“Androids like Nikola may be important research tools for social psychology or even social neuroscience. Compared to humans, androids are good at controlling behaviors and can facilitate rigorous empirical investigation of human social interactions,” says lead scientist Wataru Sato.