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TED2009

David Hanson: Robots that "show emotion"

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David Hanson's robot faces look and act like yours: They recognize and respond to emotion, and make expressions of their own. Here, an "emotional" live demo of the Einstein robot offers a peek at a future where robots truly mimic humans.

- Robotics designer
David Hanson merges robotics and art to design life-like, social robots that can mimic human expression and emotion. Full bio

I'm Dr. David Hanson, and I build robots with character.
00:16
And by that, I mean
00:19
that I develop robots that are characters,
00:21
but also robots that will eventually
00:23
come to empathize with you.
00:26
So we're starting with a variety of technologies
00:28
that have converged into these conversational character robots
00:30
that can see faces, make eye contact with you,
00:34
make a full range of facial expressions, understand speech
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and begin to model how you're feeling
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and who you are, and build a relationship with you.
00:43
I developed a series of technologies
00:46
that allowed the robots to make more realistic facial expressions
00:48
than previously achieved, on lower power,
00:51
which enabled the walking biped robots, the first androids.
00:53
So, it's a full range of facial expressions
00:57
simulating all the major muscles in the human face,
00:59
running on very small batteries,
01:01
extremely lightweight.
01:03
The materials that allowed the battery-operated facial expressions
01:05
is a material that we call Frubber,
01:08
and it actually has three major innovations
01:10
in the material that allow this to happen.
01:12
One is hierarchical pores,
01:14
and the other is a macro-molecular nanoscale porosity in the material.
01:16
There he's starting to walk.
01:20
This is at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
01:23
I built the head. They built the body.
01:26
So the goal here is to achieve sentience in machines,
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and not just sentience, but empathy.
01:33
We're working with the Machine Perception Laboratory
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at the U.C. San Diego.
01:39
They have this really remarkable facial expression technology
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that recognizes facial expressions,
01:44
what facial expressions you're making.
01:46
It also recognizes where you're looking, your head orientation.
01:48
We're emulating all the major facial expressions,
01:51
and then controlling it with the software
01:53
that we call the Character Engine.
01:55
And here is a little bit of the technology that's involved in that.
01:57
In fact, right now -- plug it from here, and then plug it in here,
02:01
and now let's see if it gets my facial expressions.
02:09
Okay. So I'm smiling.
02:12
(Laughter)
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Now I'm frowning.
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And this is really heavily backlit.
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Okay, here we go.
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Oh, it's so sad.
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Okay, so you smile, frowning.
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So his perception of your emotional states
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is very important for machines to effectively become empathetic.
02:34
Machines are becoming devastatingly capable
02:38
of things like killing. Right?
02:41
Those machines have no place for empathy.
02:45
And there is billions of dollars being spent on that.
02:47
Character robotics could plant the seed
02:49
for robots that actually have empathy.
02:51
So, if they achieve human level intelligence
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or, quite possibly, greater than human levels of intelligence,
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this could be the seeds of hope for our future.
02:59
So, we've made 20 robots in the last eight years, during the course of getting my Ph.D.
03:02
And then I started Hanson Robotics,
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which has been developing these things for mass manufacturing.
03:08
This is one of our robots
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that we showed at Wired NextFest a couple of years ago.
03:14
And it sees multiple people in a scene,
03:16
remembers where individual people are,
03:19
and looks from person to person, remembering people.
03:21
So, we're involving two things.
03:25
One, the perception of people,
03:27
and two, the natural interface,
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the natural form of the interface,
03:33
so that it's more intuitive for you to interact with the robot.
03:35
You start to believe that it's alive and aware.
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So one of my favorite projects was bringing all this stuff together
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in an artistic display of an android portrait
03:44
of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick,
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who wrote great works like, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
03:49
which was the basis of the movie "Bladerunner."
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In these stories, robots often think
03:54
that they're human, and they sort of come to life.
03:57
So we put his writings, letters,
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his interviews, correspondences,
04:02
into a huge database of thousands of pages,
04:05
and then used some natural language processing
04:07
to allow you to actually have a conversation with him.
04:09
And it was kind of spooky, because he would say these things
04:11
that just sounded like they really understood you.
04:13
And this is one of the most exciting projects that we're developing,
04:16
which is a little character that's a spokesbot
04:19
for friendly artificial intelligence, friendly machine intelligence.
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And we're getting this mass-manufactured.
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We specked it out to actually be doable
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with a very, very low-cost bill of materials,
04:30
so that it can become a childhood companion for kids.
04:33
Interfacing with the Internet, it gets smarter over the years.
04:37
As artificial intelligence evolves, so does his intelligence.
04:40
Chris Anderson: Thank you so much. That's incredible.
04:43
(Applause)
04:45

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About the speaker:

David Hanson - Robotics designer
David Hanson merges robotics and art to design life-like, social robots that can mimic human expression and emotion.

Why you should listen

David Hanson is the founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics -- a company that aims to create robots as socially adept as any human being. Through his organization, he has seen the success of robotic facial hardware that establishes eye contact, recognizes faces and carries out natural spoken conversation. Hanson hopes these robotic faces prove useful to cognitive science and psychology, and to the entertainment industry.

A former Walt Disney Imagineer, this young entrepreneur and roboticist has been labelled a "genius" by both PC Magazine and WIRED, and has earned awards from NASA, NSF and Cooper Hewitt Design. If Hanson succeeds, he will create a socially intelligent robot that may even one day have a place in the human family.

More profile about the speaker
David Hanson | Speaker | TED.com