The facially-expressive Einstein robot has learned to smile using machine learning. This technique comes as a great relief to grad students, who would otherwise be painstakingly programming every last movement of all 31 facial muscles.
Watch the Einstein robot teach itself to smile by looking in the mirror and "body babbling" in this video.
('Einstein' Robot teaches itself to smile video)
To begin teaching the robot, the researchers stuck Einstein in front of a mirror and instructed the robot to “body babble” by contorting its face into random positions. A video camera connected to facial recognition software gave the robot feedback: When it made a movement that resembled a “real” expression, it received a reward signal.
“It’s an iterative process,” said facial recognition expert Marian Bartlett, a co-author of the study. “It starts out completely random and then gets feedback. Next time the robot picks an expression, there’s a bias towards putting the motors in the right configuration.”
Fans of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine may recall the 1960 short story Callahan and the Wheelies. In the story, author Stephen Barr describes the basic idea behind robots that learn about their environment.
"...they're motivated first by a random device and then they learn. The lines of connection in the graphite-gel that turn out the most successful remain like a printed circuit and then if occasion arises, they overprint them. My whole idea is to get away from a machine with a set of prearranged instructions, and let them teach themselves by trial and error."
(Read more about learning robots)