This robot may look like a heap of electronic parts with eyes, but if you were standing face-to-face with it, it might seem downright human—even likable.
The machine can sense when someone is trying to engage with it, turn to face that person, and even look at her or him in a lifelike way. What makes it seem so natural? The robot has been programmed to make subtle movements—including blinking, moving its eyes, and tilting its head—to create a humanlike gaze. It even looks away if a noise distracts it! The robot’s chest also gently rises and falls to make it look like it’s breathing.
Disney Research developed the machine in an effort to enhance the audio-animatronic robots used at Disney theme parks. Animatronic robots generally tend to stare in, well, a robotic way. Disney says the goal of this robot’s gaze is to change that—by creating the “illusion of life.”