A Retro-Projected Robotic Head for Social Human-Robot Interaction
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As people respond strongly to faces and facial features, both con- sciously and subconsciously, faces are an essential aspect of social
robots. Robotic faces and heads until recently belonged to one of the
following categories: virtual, mechatronic or animatronic. As an orig- inal contribution to the field of human-robot interaction, I present the
R-PAF technology (Retro-Projected Animated Faces): a novel robotic
head displaying a real-time, computer-rendered face, retro-projected
from within the head volume onto a mask, as well as its driving soft- ware designed with openness and portability to other hybrid robotic
platforms in mind.
The work constitutes the first implementation of a non-planar mask
suitable for social human-robot interaction, comprising key elements
of social interaction such as precise gaze direction control, facial ex- pressions and blushing, and the first demonstration of an interactive
video-animated facial mask mounted on a 5-axis robotic arm. The
LightHead robot, a R-PAF demonstrator and experimental platform,
has demonstrated robustness both in extended controlled and uncon- trolled settings. The iterative hardware and facial design, details of the
three-layered software architecture and tools, the implementation of
life-like facial behaviours, as well as improvements in social-emotional
robotic communication are reported. Furthermore, a series of evalua- tions present the first study on human performance in reading robotic
gaze and another first on user’s ethnic preference towards a robot face.
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