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Robot can wear your friend's face and guess your mood

March 28, 2014 | Telepresence Options

SociBot-Mini

Story and images by Paul Marks / New Scientist

The spooky robotic head was watching me. As I passed by, it followed me with its eyes and slowly craned in my direction. Then it spoke, its animated lips moving realistically as it promoted an imminent crowdfunding campaign. When I stood still, it looked me over: its sensors examined my face and counted up my wrinkles. Then, rather annoyingly, it correctly guessed my age.

I was interacting with SociBot-Mini, a 60-centimetre-high robot built by Will Jackson and his colleagues at Engineered Arts�in Penryn, UK. The model is one of their first generation of robots, already on sale. The company bills it as a futuristic information terminal that people could interact with in a mall, airport or bank, say. And if the Kickstarter campaign is successful, a cheaper, slimmed-down version will follow for home use, as a kind of personal assistant.

"Today's computer interfaces have moved on very little from the typewriter," says Jackson. "We have social software and a social internet, but we don't have social hardware."

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