Robotics engineers at the University of Bristol have been grimacing a lot recently, thanks to their copycat robotic head, Jules, which can mimic the facial expressions and lip movements of a human being.
Jules is an animatronic head produced by US roboticist David Hanson, who builds uniquely expressive, disembodied heads with a flexible rubber skin that is moved by 34 servo motors.
Human face movements are picked up by a video camera and mapped onto the tiny electronic motors in Jules' skin.
The Bristol team developed its own software to transfer expressions recorded by the video camera into commands to make those servos produce similarly realistic facial movements.
However, because the robot's motors are not identical to human facial muscles, some artistic licence was required. After filming an actor making a variety of expressions indicating, say, "happiness", an expert animator selected 10 frames showing different variations of the expression and manually set the servos in Jules's face to match.
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