In recent years, huge advances have been made in the design of androids. Most research has been directed at movement, specifically, walking using two legs.
However, as we all know, there’s a lot more to humans than our ability to walk around, and, while Honda’s P3 (and more recently ASIMO) clearly represent the cutting edge of research, plenty of experts are addressing other, more esoteric areas of robot design.
Researchers in the department of mechanical engineering at Japan’s Waseda University have been developing anthropomorphic robot heads, which are able to communicate with humans by expressing human like facial expressions.
Brainchild of Professor Atsuo Takanishi, the WE-3RIV (Waseda Eye No.3 Refined IV) uses its eyes, eyebrows, lips and facial colour to convey emotions which include happiness, anger, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, drunkeness, and shame.
The neck has 4 degrees of freedom (DOF) and each motional speed is said to be similar to a human’s. The yaw axis of the neck is driven by a Harmonic Drive Systems DC motor, and the other axes are antagonistically driven by a tendon driven mechanism using a DC motor and a spring.
The eyeballs and eyelids also both have 4 DOF and are again able to move in pretty much the same way as human eyes, even being able to blink at 0.3s.
Springs and stepper motors move the eyebrows and the lips, and a red EL (Electro Luminescent) sheet is used to change the robot’s facial colour.
WE-3RIV is also equipped with black and white CCD cameras in both eyes, and uses two center of gravity operation PC boards and a brightness calculation PC board to process the image from the CCD cameras. The images of CCD cameras of both eyes are inputted into the center of gravity operation board, and the robot is able to recognise and pursue a target position.
Thanks to a condenser microphone, the robot is able to hear and localise sound and 4 semiconductor gas sensors mean that it can also recognise the smell of alcohol, ammonia and cigarette smoke!
Finally, the robot also has some sense of touch; achieved by using force sensitive resistors which combine with a 2 layer structure to enable it to recognise the magnitude of the force with which is touched.