Blinking is a small action that is often overlooked in humans, but scientists say building this behavior into robots matters a lot.
In a lab at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, BBC journalist Christine Ro sits opposite an adorable robot, iCub. The two hold sticks and hit a separate box in time with the light.
“It’s the first time I’ve played drums with the robot. I’m watching the robot and I know he’s watching me too.Ro shared on the BBC.
This battery experiment was designed to test how a robot performing a similar task affects human behavior. This is one of many experiments on the interaction between humans and robots CONTACT . research group conducted at the Italian Institute of Technology.
Ro’s eyes were drawn to iCub’s heavy white lids. She remembers the noticeable noise every time the robot blinked after a few seconds. As isub has big eyes, its look is very attractive.
“Although it is generally accepted that blinking is only a physiological reflex involved in the protective and lubricating functions of the eye, it also plays an important role in reciprocity.”said Helena Kiilavuori, a psychology researcher at Ampère University in Finland.
According to the BBC’s pen, humans blink to convey attention and emotion. As a means of non-verbal communication, this act represents certain things that we are not aware of, such as who should continue in a conversation.
Flash is one of many social signals that people constantly exchange without being aware of it. Therefore, roboticists have studied both the physical and psychological properties of blinking behavior to understand why it is useful to incorporate this behavior in robots.
“Since blinking has many important functions for human behavior, it can be assumed that blinking robots will also significantly improve the sense of similarity. This could facilitate similarity in human-robot interaction”Ms. Kiilavuori said.
iCub – robot from the CONTACT research team of the Italian Institute of Technology.
iCub – the robot of the CONTACT research team of the Italian Institute of Technology. (Picture: BBC).
Indeed, the CONTAT team’s study of 13-year-old children and adults in Italy, published in Research Gate, showed that both groups preferred flashing robots. Alessandra Sciutti, who led the study, points out that a robot that doesn’t blink can make some people uncomfortable by being watched.
People also think that the more naturally the robot blinks, the smarter it is. And intelligence plays an important role in information-seeking situations where humans depend on robots, such as in homes.
But despite the many advantages, integrating natural blinking into a robot is a technical challenge.
“Blinking is one of the most delicate human movements, so designing mechanisms that mimic these movements requires advanced technology, like high-precision motors.”Ms. Kiilavuori explained.
“For example, roboticists at Engineered Arts use expensive aerospace-grade motors and design their own control electronics.”she still quoted.
David Hɑnson, founder of Hanson RoƄotics, also said: “The speed at which the motor moves the skin material during the blink is a real challenge. Making the eye look natural during the blink, while reducing the friction between the eyelid and the artificial surface of the eye is also a very difficult challenge”.
Another problem is compromise between engine speed and sound. According to CONTACT team senior technician Francesco Rea, iCub can use a quieter motor to dampen the flickering noise, but the slow speed makes the robot drowsy.
Blinking slowly also introduces the risk of losing image information because the iCub’s camera is located behind the eyelids. “Missing 2 frames is okay, but missing 10 frames will be a problem”said Mr. Reɑ.
Meanwhile, Ms Kiilavuori added “Another challenge is the precise duration of the blink.” This action can vary depending on different emotional states, such as a person blinking faster or slower when lying down.
“Any timing discrepancy in a given context can make the robot feel strange and unsettling.” She commented.
At Disney Research, robot makers teamed up with animators to develop a realistic robot prototype, with the goal of designing an eye expression system that helps filmmakers easily control and convey subtle emotions.
With factors such as eyelid movement curve, “we can isolate these individual behaviors so that we can focus on fixing minor aspects and details”said James Kennedy, research scientist at Disney Research.
Getting a robot to blink as naturally as a human is a challenge.
Getting a robot to blink as naturally as a human is a challenge. (Photo: ƁBC).
The Disney Research team has patented a robotic eye control and detection system, which includes software that processes images captured by the robot’s chest camera and generates command signals for movements like opening and closing eyelids.
Kennedy said the study is still experimental and has not been applied at Disney theme parks. “The goal is to take a single social cue and expand it as best as possible to produce realistic movement and behavior, thereby providing a platform for human interaction.”he said.
Another common challenge is getting humanoid robots to synchronize their blinking patterns with the blinking patterns of humans in conversations. This is still an interesting problem for many robot manufacturers.
According to the BBC, blinking is just one example of the many complex behaviors that make robot interactions seem unnatural, contrary to exaggerations about the similarity between robots and humans.
When we attempt to recreate a mechanism as small and sometimes underestimated as a wink, we truly understand just how intricate and sophisticated it is. “And it was a great opportunity for us to discover and invent.”Mr. Kennedy shared.
Article Source: Zing
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Blinking is a simple action often overlooked in humans, but for scientists, building this behavior into robots makes a lot of sense.