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Nikola, the empathetic android child, is here to meet you

nikola

Nikola, an artificial youngster created by researchers, is capable of expressing six fundamental emotions: happiness, sorrow, fear, rage, surprise, and contempt. Nikola’s facial emotions are created by moving his’muscles.’ For these six emotions, this is the first time the quality of android-expressed emotion has been examined and confirmed.

Researchers from Japan’s RIKEN Guardian Robot Project have created Nikola, an android infant that can correctly express six fundamental emotions. The current research, published in Frontiers in Psychology, assessed how well individuals could recognize six facial emotions created by manipulating “muscles” in Nikola’s face: pleasure, sorrow, fear, rage, surprise, and disgust. For these six emotions, this is the first time the quality of android-expressed emotion has been examined and confirmed.

When Rosie the robot maid first appeared on the Jetsons’ show over 50 years ago, she was deemed science fiction. Although the reality of the helpful robot is now more science fiction than science, there are still a number of difficulties to overcome, including the ability to perceive and communicate emotions. The RIKEN Guardian Robot Project’s Wataru Sato recently conducted a research that focused on creating a humanoid robot, or android, that can portray a range of emotions via its face. Nikola is the outcome, an android head that resembles a hairless kid.

There are 29 pneumatic actuators within Nikola’s face that govern the actions of artificial muscles. The head and ocular motions are controlled by another six actuators. The motions of pneumatic actuators are quiet and smooth because they are controlled by air pressure. The scientists employed the Face Action Coding System (FACS), which has been widely used to investigate facial emotions, to put the actuators. Numerous facial action units, such as the ‘cheek raiser’ and ‘lip pucker,’ have been found in previous research to represent common emotions like pleasure and disgust, and the researchers included these action units into Nikola’s design.

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Emotion studies, especially how individuals respond to emotions, are notoriously difficult to do. It’s tough to conduct a well-controlled experiment with real people interacting, but gazing at images or videos of people is less natural, and emotions differ. “With androids like Nikola, we may be able to have our cake and eat it too,” Sato adds. “We can regulate every element of Nikola’s behavior while studying live interactions at the same time.” The first stage was to see if Nikola’s facial expressions could be deciphered.

Each facial action unit was identified by a person trained in FACS scoring, demonstrating that Nikola’s facial motions are very similar to those of a genuine person. A second test revealed that, with varied degrees of accuracy, ordinary individuals could distinguish the six paradigmatic emotions in Nikola’s face: happiness, sorrow, fear, anger, surprise, and contempt. This is due to Nikola’s silicone skin being less elastic than actual human skin and so incapable of forming wrinkles. Because the action unit for nose wrinkling could not be included, emotions like disgust were more difficult to discern.

“In the near term,” Sato argues, “androids like Nikola may be essential study tools for social psychology or perhaps social neuroscience.” “When compared to human companions, androids are better at managing behaviour and can help researchers conduct thorough empirical studies of human social relationships.” For example, although the pace of Nikola’s facial movements was methodically regulated, the researchers asked participants to judge the naturalness of his emotions. The researchers discovered that the most natural pace for certain emotions, such as grief, was slower than for others, such as astonishment.

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While Nikola is currently without a body, the Guardian Robot Project’s ultimate objective is to create an android that can aid humans, especially those with physical requirements who may live alone. “Androids that can connect with us emotionally will be valuable in a variety of real-life circumstances, such as caring for the elderly, and can increase human wellness,” Sato adds.

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