Come with us into the uncanny valley and say hello to Ameca, one of the "world’s most advanced human-shaped robot" designed to mimic a range of human expressions from gleeful to shocked, all of which are equal parts impressive and creepy.
Ameca is the brainchild of Engineered Arts, a UK-based company that makes humanoid robots for entertainment, information, education, and research.
The latest version you see here is the second generation of the model and features over 12 more motors in its face, meaning more facial expressions, than its predecessor. It can now scrunch its nose, wink, and purse its lips.
The humanoid robot now features 27 motors in the face and additional an five in the neck. This includes 12 in the lips, two in the jaw, four in the eyeballs, four in the eyelids, four in the eyebrows, and one in the nose.
There are also dozens of motors in its body, arms, wrists, and fingers, allowing it to move its upper limbs. You may be pleased to hear that Ameca is stationary and not able to walk, for now.
Using advanced motion capture technology, the robot is able to perceive a human facial expression and mimic it by subtly moving its many motors. It’s also capable of hand movements, like a wave, and usings its arms to wave back.
“The human face is a very high bandwidth communication interface – we can say so much with expressions alone, words are not always necessary,” Engineered Arts said in a statement sent to IFLScience.
“We are working towards robots that feel completely natural to interact with, robots than can both read and generate emotional cues using facial expressions,” they added.
Automated speech recognition has been added to other robots created by Engineered Arts, allowing people to have conversations with the robot. However, they say this technology is not super advanced yet, and is unable to interpret subtle aspects of language such as sarcasm, tone of voice, or context.
The work of Engineered Arts has come a long way since it was founded in 2005. One of their first robots was RoboThespian, a charming albeit cartoonish-looking humanoid that could recite theoretical speeches and songs, but lacked realism. Then came Mesmer, a hyper-realistic robot that looks like a life-like human dummy. However, it lacked some of the subtleties that Ameca manages to nail.
It’s possible to buy Ameca or hire them for an event, convention, or publicity stunt. If you’ve got the money, then it’s even possible for Engineered Arts to make a customized robot in your image. YouTuber Tom Scott actually headed to Engineered Arts to get a custom-made robot of himself with appropriately strange results.