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Mask-bot: A Robot with a Human Face

Published: November 7, 2011.
By Technische Universitaet Muenchen

Robotics researchers in Munich have joined forces with Japanese scientists to develop an ingenious technical solution that gives robots a human face. By using a projector to beam the 3D image of a face onto the back of a plastic mask, and a computer to control voice and facial expressions, the researchers have succeeded in creating Mask-bot, a startlingly human-like plastic head. Mask-bot, however, can display realistic three-dimensional heads on a transparent plastic mask, and can change the face on-demand. A projector positioned behind the mask accurately beams a human face onto the back of the mask, creating very realistic features that can be seen from various angles, including the side.

To replicate facial expressions, Takaaki Kuratate developed a talking head animation engine – a system in which a computer filters an extensive series of face motion data from people collected by a motion capture system and selects the facial expressions that best match a specific sound, called a phoneme, when it is being spoken. The computer extracts a set of facial coordinates from each of these expressions, which it can then assign to any new face, thus bringing it to life.

The CoTeSys group has chosen a different route to researchers who use dozens of small motors to manipulate individual facial parts and reproduce facial expressions.

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