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Robot head ‘Han’ can read and react to facial expressions

Tue 21 Apr 2015

Han the humanoid robot, who can imitate human facial expressions, made an appearance last weekend at an electronics and robotics fair in Hong Kong.

The robot head, created by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, greeted delegates and was able to hold small conversations with the crowds. Via a mobile app, an operator controls Han’s 40 motors to create a range of facial expressions. The head, which is made from ‘Frubber’ or ‘flesh rubber’, a patented elastic polymer, can smile, wink, frown, grimace, and can even display signs of drunkenness.

According to Hanson Robotics product manager Grace Copplestone, the robot can also interact with its environment with several cameras installed in the eyes and chest gathering visual data from its surroundings.

“Han is really exciting because not only can he generate very realistic facial expressions, but he can also interact with the environment around him. So he has cameras on his eyes and on his chest, which allow him to recognise people’s face, not only that, but recognise their gender, their age, whether they are happy or sad, and that makes him very exciting for places like hotels for example, where you need to appreciate the customers in front of you and react accordingly,” added Copplestone.

Discussing further commercial opportunities for Han, Copplestone suggested three potential markets that the company was interested in approaching. As well as receptionist and hospitality roles, she noted that the technology could also offer exciting opportunities in the entertainment sector – “casinos, theme parks and museums.”

Finally, she commented that the robot could be useful in a health care setting: “If you can provide doctors with mannequins that have very realistic facial expressions on them, that provides a very beneficial piece of training to the doctor, and the mannequin can travel over the world to do that.”

“Another area of medical care is for the elderly. We believe a human face on a robot makes it far more approachable, and efficient, and effective in caring for older people,” she added.

The facial recognition technology used in the Han robot prototype is available across open source, allowing robot developers around the globe to experiment with the same software.

Hanson Robotics hopes to recreate the Han technology soon on a different face – a Eurasian female called Eva – and expects to produce hundreds of the robotic heads by the end of the year. Details on price have yet to be released.



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