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Robot Communicates ­sing Eye Movements Alone

By Technology Review

April 17, 2009

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A team at the Tokyo Institute of Technology is trying to enable humans and robots to communicate nonverbally. Yoichi Yamazaki and colleagues have developed an "eye robot" that can convey a wide range of nonverbal signals. A computer would need to understand the message that is being conveyed, so the researchers addressed this issue by having the system with synthetic eyeballs produce expressions at random, and then having viewers evaluate each expression. They used questionnaires to create a "mentality space" for expressions. As users talk to the eye robot, the robot uses a speech recognition program to evaluate the conversation and then selects the appropriate eye expression from the mentality space.

"The proposed system provides a user-friendly interface so that humans and robots communicate in natural fashion," says the team. Still, developing an eye robot that can hold its own in a nonverbal conversation will be more of a challenge than making the synthetic eyeballs look happy or sad.

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