Friday, July 10, 2009
SAN DIEGO Researchers at the University of California San Diego have created a life-like robot that can be taught to make facial expressions. KPBS reporter Katie Orr says the researchers believe their creation might one day help children with autism.
The robot, nicknamed Einstein, learned to make human facial expressions through reinforcement learning. Researcher Marian Bartlett says the robot would randomly pick an expression and then receive feedback about how closely it resembled a real human expression. Bartlett says in the future similar robots might be able to help autistic children improve their social skills.
“There is preliminary evidence from a couple of labs that there can be some carryover, that they kids with autism can start to show some social behaviors while interacting with the robot and will turn around and continue those social behaviors for a little while with humans,” she says.
Researchers say teaching a robot how to learn facial expressions could lead to insights about how humans develop expressions as well.