Sunday 16 September 2007

Zeno: Cartoonistic Robot that Learns Expression

David Hanson creator of Zeno of Hanson Robotics believes there is an emerging business in the design and sale of lifelike robotic companions, or social robots.

Hanson believes robots should be about artistic expression, a creative medium akin to sculpting or painting. But convincing people that robots should look like people instead of, well, robots, remains a challenge that robot experts call the ''uncanny valley'' theory.
The so-called “uncanny valley” theory was proposed in 1970 by robotics pioneer Masahiro Mori. It suggests that the more realistic and humanlike a robot appears, the more positively a human will react to it, but only to a certain point.

Zeno has blinking eyes that can track people and a face that captivates with a range of expressions. Unlike clearly artificial robotic toys, Hanson says he envisions Zeno as an interactive learning companion, a synthetic pal who can engage in conversation and convey human emotion through a face made of a skin-like, patented material Hanson calls frubber.

It's a representation of robotics as a character animation medium, one that is intelligent. It sees you and recognizes your face. It learns your name and can build a relationship with you.

Nevertheless, perhaps future animators will use robots like Zeno in order to create cartoons instead of making thousands of drawings !

Source: Technology Review
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