Disney has developed a skinless robot which copy the movements of real humans.
The terrifying machine can imitate human actions, specifically blinking & copying subtle head movements.
These can include subtly nodding & moving because it ‘breathes’ in & out or tiny eye movements behavior that a traditional person would never notice themselves doing because they’re so miniscule.
The robot was developed to form Disney’s animatronics more realistic, helping them create the “illusion of life” consistent with a paper from Walt Disney Imagineering.
In its actions, it mirrors the principles animators use to create cartoon characters: the utilization of ‘arcs’ with motion following a curved path, ‘drag’ which suggests different parts of the robot will move at different speeds & accelerating & deaccelerating actions at the start & end of movements.
The machine focuses on the human eye gaze through a sensor mounted on the robot chest.
That allows it to inform when a person’s is trying to interact with it, based on a ‘curiosity score’; the greater the number, the more important it’s for the robot to interact with the human.
When that’s done, the robot will then choose variety of ‘shows’, which set how parts of its face moves. This include opening & shutting the jaw, tilting the top, furrowing eyebrows & nodding.
This can be changed because it supported how close a person’s is to the robot, which researchers say may be a strong contributor for a way of realism.
“At further distances, lower fidelity behaviours seem believable and the same is true for shorter interaction times. At closer distances & for extended periods of your time, more complex behaviours are required to make some believable characters”, the research states.
“For example, simple head motion could also be believable from a distance but as individuals move closer to a robot, the illusion of life would break and eye gaze becomes essential”.
However, there are still elements where the robot cannot humans eye gaze, for instance. The robot’s eyes are set parallel and can’t focus on the human also as biological eyes.
Thus, during mutual gaze, the robot appears to seem through you rather than at you”, the researchers say.
As such, the robot uses saccades quick, darting eye movements that make it difficult to find out where the robot is focusing and thus create the illusion that both eyes are focused on the person.
The reason that it’s so necessary to form robots seem realistic is due to the ‘uncanny valley’, once we encounter a robot that’s almost but not almost human.
When a machine is at this stage, the human likeness creates a sense of unease or discomfort. This is often unlike explicit robots like those by Boston Dynamics or machines that look so almost like humans they can’t be distinguished.