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Surprising Science

Robots Are Emotion Machines

Robots started out conceptually as automaton-servants but instead of creating a modern-day butler, much robotics research today focuses on creating emotional machines.

Jules, the posh robot from the University of Bristol, U.K., is equipped with tiny motors under its skin, which means it can accurately mimic human facial expressions. Jules is a disembodied head though, and while its copycat technique is impressive, robots need to do more than copy us to be able to interact on an emotional level. A step up the emotional adeptness scale, AIDA, the driving companion, uses its facial expressions to respond to the driver’s mood—looking sad if a seatbelt is undone, for instance, or detecting that you are tense as you drive and helping you relax.


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