Disney researchers create a creepy robot with a life-like gaze

When humans are talking, typically, eye contact is something we do intuitively to show that we are involved and interested in the conversation. Researchers at Disney want robots to better connect with humans and have created a system that provides a life-like gaze for human-robot interactions. The system uses a humanoid Audio-Animatronic bust of the sort seen on various Disney rides around its parks.The new research builds on previous work that involved mutual gaze between robots and humans and focused on technical implementation. The researchers say they are now presenting a general architecture seeking to create gaze interactions from a technical standpoint and through the lens of character animation when fidelity and believable motion are critical. Essentially, the researchers want to create an interaction giving the illusion of life.

Researchers have described a system that can perceive persons in the environment, identify persons-of-interest based on their actions, and selects appropriate gaze behavior. The system will use high fidelity motions to respond to the stimulus. Disney researchers plan to mimic biological systems, including attenuation habitation, saccades, and differences in motion bandwidth for actuators.

The mechanisms can mimic motor and attention behaviors that are observed in biological systems to provide a life-like interaction. A subsumption architecture allows layering of motor movements to create increasingly complicated behaviors. Those behaviors can react realistically to stimuli in the environment by subsuming lower levels of behavior.

The result is an interactive human-robot experience that is capable of human-like gaze behaviors. The creepy skeletal robot in the video above shows what the researchers have been working on, highlighting its interactive capabilities.