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Watch: Charles is (probably) the mind-reading, human-mimicking robot everyone warned us about

The robot can read and replicate most human expressions.


Charles can smile, frown, look surprised and put on pretty much most human expressions. Charles is a robot built at Cambridge University.

Now, to say he can read minds may be overreaching, but Charles comes close. How? By reading faces. Charles is a complicated system of computer programs and mechanical devices that are connected to a camera which records the face of a non-robot human.

The computer analyses the footage to gauge the positions of various facial muscles, like eyebrows, jaw, mouth and more, and sends it to Charles, who is then able to respond to the expressions with its own.

The formidable robot is part of research being done at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. “We’ve been interested in seeing if we can give computers the ability to understand social signals, to understand facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture and gesture,” Professor Peter Robinson, the creator of the robot, told Cambridge News. “We thought it would also be interesting to see if the computer system, the machine, could actually exhibit those same characteristics, and see if people engage with it more.”

However, even Robinson admits that though Charles looks somewhat realistic thanks to good prosthetics, there is a strangeness in his expressions. The reason is the lack of motors and control programmes fine enough to replicate the human face.

According to The Daily Mail, experts at Cambridge University are hoping that this breakthrough will help robots respond to subtle cues given by people during a conversation, thus leading the way to emotional robots that can think and feel like people.

Charles was created by Robinson along with Roboticist David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, who is responsible for Sophia, an artificially intelligent humanoid who happens to be the world’s first robot to get citizenship.

To see Charles in action, you can see the videos above and below, or go here.

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