Emotional “android child” Nikola will take part in psychological research
In studies of people’s reactions to various emotions, living human faces may not always accurately and even more so display them in the same way. Therefore, for such a task, a team of scientists from the Japanese RIKEN Guardian Robot Project created an “android child” named Nikola, who is able to consistently depict six human emotions – joy, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.
Nikola is covered with elastic silicone skin, which hides 29 pneumatic actuators that control the contractions of the robot’s facial muscles. 6 additional drives set the movement of the head and eyeballs. The localization of motor mechanisms is determined by the facial action coding system, which shows which muscle groups are used to manifest certain emotions. All drives work softly and silently. This makes Nikola look more like a real child than a robot.
In laboratory tests, the volunteers managed to determine exactly what emotions Nikola expressed, although some were more difficult to understand than others. For example, since the robot’s skin does not wrinkle like a human’s, there were difficulties with the expression of disgust. Scientists will eliminate these shortcomings as the project develops.
In the future, Nikola-type androids may become an important aid in social psychology or even social neuroscience. Compared to live subjects, androids allow better control of desired emotional manifestations and can facilitate accurate empirical analyses of people’s social interactions. In the future, this technology can also be applied to full-fledged robot assistants, with whom live clients will communicate.