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Mask-Bot: The 'creepy' robot with a human face
A new machine uses 'facial emotion data' and 3-D images of people to express itself through blinks, smirks, and raised eyebrows
 
Mask-Bot projects a human face onto a robot, a technology that might be used to keep lonely elderly people company.
Mask-Bot projects a human face onto a robot, a technology that might be used to keep lonely elderly people company.
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The video: Most humanoid robots currently being tested in labs are emotionless, awkward machines. But not Mask-Bot. This new robot has a lifelike human face, created using computerized 3-D images projected onto a plastic visage. Mask-Bot uses a "talking mask animation engine" to convey emotions like humans do, using everything from blinks to raised eyebrows. (Watch a video below.) Researchers say Mask-Bot could revolutionize video conferencing (by projecting the face of a remote employee onto a plastic mold in the conference room), or provide comfort for elderly people with little human interaction.

The reaction: Even if Mask-Bot can deliver "visible emotional nuances," it's still a "creepy way to give robots realistic human faces," says Olivia Solon at Wired. But the "weirdest part," says Rebecca Boyle at Popular Science, "is the animation engine, which uses a database of facial emotion data that was previously collected using a motion-capture system." The robot uses that information to decide which facial expressions to use in which situations — or "perhaps just to personify Skynet once it becomes aware." See for yourself:

 

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