This Robot Can 'Transform' Itself To Look Like Your Friends And Even Guess Your Mood

Researchers have developed a 'spooky' robot that can put on your friend's face, predict your mood and even guess your age.

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When we communicate with screen-based avatars or video chat with people via FaceTime or Skype, the interaction is rather flat and 2-dimensional. However, a new identity-swapping robot with a contoured face wants to change that.

The SociBot allows people to videoconference, projecting their face onto the robot head

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Developed by UK-based Engineered Arts, the SociBot-Mini is a human-like bust with a gesture-tracking camera that can recognize a person’s mood and respond accordingly


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Perhaps its coolest feature is its transparent plastic face, which includes the proportional curves of a nose, mouth, eyes, cheekbones, forehead and chin. When backlit with a digital projector, the head displays generic faces or more familiar ones based off a headshot.

Its creators think the SociBot-Mini could add more of a human touch to teleconferences or kiosk avatars we interact with at banks, airports or malls

The Socibot contains a full computer, and uses a camera in its head to track users

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“It’s as spooky as all hell,” Will Jackson, Engineered Arts Director, told New Scientist. “We’ve tried it with a couple of our telecommuting colleagues in meetings and when it suddenly turns and joins in the conversation as our colleague Dan, and with his face, it is quite amazing. But you get used to it quickly.”

Currently, the robot possesses a limited understanding of speech, and is outfitted with software that allows it to hold limited conversations

Rosette - the application SociBot's chatbot software is modeled after - won the Loebner Prize in 2011, awarded for a computer's conversational capacity. According to Jackson, the robot will ultimately become something that people enjoy working closely with, a "butler who knows you inside and out."

The face is created by an internal Pico LED projector. This projector allows it to create different articulate the types of facial expressions for different situations.

Socibot-Mini can also track the position of more than 12 people at a time, even in a crowd. It can also detect gestures like hand waves and body poses. The internal head projector can map any face onto any mould – allowing different facial features to be added.
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'To be social you need to be expressive. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and every face paints a picture. Fully integrated LED pico projection technology with custom developed optics means that SociBot's face is dynamic, easily-customisable and versatile. Expressions transform SociBot's face to suit his mood, or reflect the expressions of people looking at him,' Engineered Arts, the firm behind the project, says.

The SociBot-Mini also comes with chatbot software, allowing the robot to hold simple conversations in more than 20 languages

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While the robot isn’t quite capable of real-time video streaming, with all the face substitution projects in the works, video chatting with a three-dimensional “person” can’t be too far off. In the meantime, Engineered Arts wants to make a streamlined version of SociBot-Mini for home use.

Engineered Arts is selling it online for USD16,000. Watch SociBot Mini in action, here:

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