Giant baby faced robot used to study infant expressions

Sure, a robot walking through the woods on its own is a bit disconcerting. A robotic big cat that can run you down? Worthy of some consternation. A robot with a giant baby face, though? Downright creepy. At least one such creation exists, however, thanks to a project by researchers at US San Diego. Among other things, the team found that babies and comedians have something in common.

A team of psychologists, roboticists, and computer scientists set out to determine why babies smile, and to aid in that mission was the creation of the robot you see in the video below. The robot was programmed the act like a baby, and was then presented to undergraduate students. The results confirmed the researchers' findings.

As it turns out, babies smile in order to get their mothers and others to smile, and they're crafty in how they pull it off. The researchers described them as being like comedians, using "sophisticated timing" to optimize others' responses. Babies, though, smile only as much as needed, keeping it toned down as much as possible.

The researchers believe this is the first time robotics, developmental psychology, and computer science have been combined in a study like this. As the heart of it all is one reality: if a baby smiles at you, they're doing it for a specific reason, not just for the heck of it.

SOURCE: UC San Diego