Scientists develop laughter model to make robots more human
Moving a step closer to replicate natural conversations, scientists have now developed a robot that can have a distinct laugh with varying situations. The development of laughing robot Erica brings the robotic technology to such an acme, where robots can emulate even the non-verbal emotions of humans.
This study is a pivotal step towards adding humanness to robots. Laughter is a very privileged and complex human emotion. The sense of humour differs from person to person. Even the type and extent of laughter is very subjective.
Talking robots must be able to express empathy to achieve natural interaction with human users, states the research recently published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI Spoken. However, it stresses that the laughter requires a high level of dialogue understanding, which makes implementing laughter in talking robots challenging.
The researchers worked on Android Erica to teach its artificial intelligence learn conversational laughter. Android is a humanlike robot, emulating not only the appearance but also human behaviour. In their study, they collected training data from over 80 speed-dating dialogues between male volunteers and the robot that was initially teleoperated by four female artists.
The dialogue data was labelled for solo laughs, social laughs and gleeful laughter. This data was then used to train the algorithm to decide when to laugh, and to choose the best laugh, depending on the situation.
The most important result of this paper, according to Dr. Koji Inoue – lead author of the research, is incorporating all three tasks into one robot, he tells The Jerusalem Post. He asserts that the combined system is necessary for proper laughing behaviour rather than just detecting a laugh and responding to it.
Emphasising that robots should have a peculiar character, Inoue adds that this can be shown through their conversational behaviours, like laughing, eye gaze, gestures and speaking style.
However, the research mentions that laughter is very intricate to replicate and needs more time and large-scale research. Although laughter is a non-linguistic behaviour, it also relies on the context of dialogue and culture, so it may take over 10 to 20 years before we could chat with a robot like we would with a friend, the researchers state.