Disney Engineers' Skinless Robot Has Scary Lifelike Gaze
Even the most humanoid robots don't look like humans and are bound to give you a weird feeling that lets you know you're not facing a real human -- regardless of how real they might seem. Those who watch Westworld will know...
Fixing this problem is not an easy feat because it makes us ask what makes us seem human, and a research team at Disney thinks that subtle head motions and eye movements will do the trick.
If you manage to get past the fact that it looks like a skinned human, the robot serves as an extraordinary step forward. Engineers at Disney's Research division, Walt Disney Imagineering, and robotics researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the California Institute of Technology are the ones behind it.
The robot has a way to go before it can star in a Westworld episode since it only has a static torso and a head that resembles a skinned human due to its lack of muscle and skin, or in this case, silicone above it.
It knows when a person is trying to engage with it and turns to face them. As you might know, many robots can do that, but what's special about this one is the fact that it has smaller motions that make it look more "human." For example, it knows to shift its gaze when it hears a noise in the distance and goes back to looking at the person's face.
Moreover, it has those head movements that breathing causes, simple blinking motions, and quick darting of the eyes when it is looking at the depths of your eyes covered, too.
You can watch this video of the robot here, but try not to be intimidated by its unwavering gaze.
It makes one wonder how scary it would like if it had skin over its humanoid animatronic bust.
You can read more about the robot here in the paper titled "Realistic and Interactive Robot Gaze."
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