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Denver 2003 Monday, 17 February, 2003, 00:20 GMT
Robots get cheeky
Head, BBC
K-bot: Putting a human face on computers
Amos, BBC

Meet K-bot, probably the most sophisticated robot head yet developed.

This is the face for social robotics

David Hanson
It is the creation of David Hanson, a former Disney employee now working at the University of Texas-Dallas.

The android head has cameras behind its eyes that will follow your movements; sophisticated software drives tiny motors under the polymer skin to mimic your facial expressions.

K-bot will smile, sneer, frown and even squint. Its 24 mechanical muscles react in under one second to produce the copycat visage.

Computers of tomorrow

The two-kilogram head was shown off to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver.

Andy, Nasa
Andy: A predecessor of K-bot
Delegates were being updated on the latest developments in biologically inspired intelligent robotics.

"This is the face for social robotics," said Mr Hanson, who is building the machine as part of his PhD studies. "The human face is the most natural paradigm for human-computer interactions. This is how we will interact with the computers of tomorrow."

Remarkably, the main components in this advanced machine have been built from parts that cost less than $400, and Hanson believes this cost can be dramatically reduced.

Accelerated development

"The goal is to turn these robot faces into a main mass-manufacture technology. As these robots reduce in size and weight, they will become more easily distributed in science laboratories."

When that happens, Hanson believes the development of the head will be accelerated. The basic unit will become a platform to try out other technologies such as artificial muscles.

"You could distribute these things to labs all around the world and then you would have a standardised humanoid intelligence platform that can be integrated with locomotion robots and natural language processors.

"You could then begin to knit together all the various components of artificial intelligence into a cohesive integrated humanoid emulation robot.

"But fundamentally you have to have a good face otherwise you will not relate to it."

There could also be medical applications for K-bot. It could be used to help people with disorders that affect communications skills. It is thought that in future a robot like this could help people with autism, for example, interpret and respond to facial expression.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
"The robot can react to human emotions"
Denver, BBC

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See also:

11 Feb 03 | Scotland
19 Dec 02 | Technology
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