Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

Eye Robot Aims to Crack Secret of Nonverbal Communication

Japanese robot communicates using eye movements alone.

  • April 16, 2009

Social referencing is the ability to communicate with nonverbal signals. Children, in particular, learn much from the expressions of adults in new situations-whether to be frightened, happy sad etc. Nonverbal communication is important for everybody but in its purest form, perfected by many a primary school teacher, it is possible to control young children with eyebrow movements alone (a skill sadly lacking in many workplaces).

Now nonverbal communication is being roboticised by Yoichi Yamazaki and his pals at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The team has built an “eye robot” consisting of nothing more than a pair of eyeballs capable of conveying a wide range of nonverbal signals. “The proposed system provides a user friendly interface so that humans and robots communicate in natural fashion,” say the team.

It’s not hard to create expressions with synthetic eyes. The difficulty for a computer is in knowing what kind of message this expression conveys and when to use it. The team has worked this out by setting up the device to produce expressions at random and then asking viewers to evaluate each expression.

Using the results of these questionnaires, Yamazaki and co have created a “mentality space” for expressions. Users talk to the eye robot which evaluates the conversation using a speech recognition program and then selects an appropriate eye expression from this space.

Clearly, eye expression is an important part of the nonverbal communication that goes on between humans. Crack this code and the team could have a winner on its hands. But while it is relatively straightforward to make eyes that look happy or sad, it will be much harder to create synthetic eyeballs that can hold their own in a nonverbal conversation.

Anyone feel a new kind of Turing test coming on?

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0904.1631: Intent Expression Using Eye Robot for Mascot Robot System

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.