UK engineers developed a robot that can hold eye contact with humans and perform musical numbers.
British company Engineered Arts has designed a humanoid that has several very human capabilities, such as guessing your age, holding eye contact and performing 'Singin' in the Rain'. The team is currently working on adding other functions like walking, hopping and jumping.
Called RoboThespians, the robots are human-sized, have screens that act as eyes, and have moving arms. Their 'eyes' are able to follow the person in front of them, while the robots tell jokes in one of 30 languages.
The robots are priced between $66,000 and $73,000, and are sold each year to museums, universities and other companies. Their purpose is to entertain at events like exhibitions and trade shows.
"It was 'make an automated presenter,'" said Will Jackson, founder of Engineered Arts. "That was the mission. It was to make something that could stand in a spot all day, every day, and tell the people things but do it in an entertaining way and use gestures."
The initial point of RobotThespians was to explain ideas and concepts to people in an entertaining fashion without getting nervous, like what is often needed in museums.
"It is really tedious for someone to stand in a space and repeat the same information all day every day," Jackson said. "It was ripe for automation."
The robots' movements are controlled by a tablet, and the robots themselves are able to gauge the mood and age of the people around them, as well as blow kisses and break into song.
"It is making machines that can have the properties of people," Jackson said. "This is key for making a performing robot. It has huge industrial applications as well because if you can make a machine which is safe around people and it is able to behave like a person, you can then do collaborative tasks, you can start solving all kinds of other problems."
Engineered Arts is currently working on another humanoid called Byrun. The robot weights about 66 pounds, is 170cm falls and has the ability the walk, hop and jump. Jackson expects to have a working prototype in a year.
See how the RoboThespian works in the video below.