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Preview: Diego-san’s New Face

Dr. Movellan at UCSD’s Machine Perception Lab has provided a preview image of Diego-san’s new head (which is being designed by Hanson Robotics), and they’re interested in your opinions (so leave comments – constructive criticism is best).  Though this is not necessarily the final version, they feel they are getting close.  The body will be made of a translucent gray material, but it is still being worked on (which is why it is not pictured).  The finished robot will likely be demonstrated around November 10th (for now, you can read our interview to learn more about the project).

Of course, this being a computer rendering it is hard to compare it to the original, because the materials won’t look quite the same in reality.  I think having the transparent bulb part where you can see some of the mechanisms, and the antennae, give the robot an almost cartoony feeling (something like Astro Boy or a super hero).  This effect will be enhanced when it gets its translucent body – which I’m guessing will allow you to make out some of the internal mechanisms as well.  It adds a bit of whimsy which may help to diminish the uncanny valley, which may be their intention.  I also think the face appears older than the original, which also helps.

So what do you think – are they on the right track?  One thing’s for sure: realistic humanoids are without a doubt more difficult to design than the more abstract, mechanical ones.

Thanks, Dr. Movellan!

  • SenaiERI

    Looks like a good face, but the lighting in this picture makes it look cartoonish. If you can avoid the ‘astro’ look and give it a realistic human face, it would most likely be more appealing.

    Actually why not use a real persons face? The first human face transplant was done a while back, why not the first human to robot face transplant? (I was being sarcastic in case you couldn’t tell)

  • Javier Movellan

    Thanks everyone. Your comments were very useful. Hopefully in a month or so we will be able to see a video of Diego’s face making facial expressions.


  • whitaker

    I think their new design looks cute, yes maybe a little wierd, but definitely cute. Not creepy at all. I don’t think alex’s images look better, and maybe actually worse.

  • alex

    (yeah, but the eyes are more of an adult.)
    All depends on what they want:
    1. to look realistic -> most probably will be uncanny valley
    2. to avoid the uncanny valley -> so design over realism

  • Robotbling

    @ alex

    The smoother face works pretty well, actually. But remember, most kids have some baby fat on them. I think that was the reason Hanson designed it that way.

  • CT

    The previous face looked more like an old man and this one much more baby-like and adorable.

  • Pingback: Diego-san a besoin de vous pour sa bouille de bébé !()

  • It seems to me that whatever the face, as long as movements won’t feel perfectly human, it will be creepy. When the only thing Diego misses is a face, it will be worth spending time on it. But for now, it misses everything else

  • alex

    I found these issues with the face:
    – it’s probably modeled after a fat kid -> it looks deformed, especially the chin and cheeks
    – because of the \fat\ look it has too many wrinkles, so it looks more like a fat adult – a baby/kid face is smooth
    I played with GIMP and tried to correct it a bit:
    picture 1:
    comparison picture:
    the changes:
    – smaller nose
    – smaller lips
    – smoother face, removing the deformation chin-cheeks
    – correcting the fat look
    I think this way it looks much less creepy and more like a kid.

  • Richard

    I think the new face is much better. It looks happier and cuter. The old face looked angry. The bubble and antennae really look good and I like the hairline on the face.
    Much improved. I can’t wait to see new pictures when everything is done and he has a new face and body.

  • Javier Movellan

    Thanks for your feedback. The target age appearance is a difficult decision. It we make him look like a baby it may feel strange because the body’s height is more like that of an 8 year old. However if we make him look older when he moves he is going to look very strange. The whole point of this project is to understand how babies learn to move, so he is going to be making lot’s of baby like movements as he learns to reach, point, walk, and make facial expressions.

    I think David Hanson did something very smart by including the plastic \bubble\ and letting the top of the mechanical part be visible. By doing so he managed to reduce the size of the face, he also helped make a nice transition between mechanical and biological appearance.

    Regarding ZENO. Note David is the creator of ZENO and of Diego’s face. We are certainly trying to bring some of the ZENO feeling into Diego. But remember ZENO uses standard RC servos. Control is not a problem. Diego uses pneumatics. Control is very hard, but motion will be much more human like… once we figure out how he can learn to control his own body.

  • Francis

    The child face has to go. It’s really creepy. Why not make it more adult?

  • alex

    1. the older look should be better
    2. that the whole head won’t be from silicone but only the face, is better -> the old face with full silicone head looked especially creepy

    1. it will still have the proportions of an infant – extra big head with smaller body -> creepy
    2. it has the proportion of an infant but is x-times bigger – so it looks like it has some disorder -> creepy
    Uncanny valley isn’t only about a moving corpse but also when it looks like it has some mental or physical disorder/illness.
    3. I’m quite afraid that when they make that new head, in reality it will look creepy as hell again – why does it have to look like a child and with unrealistic proportions, it just adds to the creepiness. When you look longer at the picture you could see that it looks quite creepy even now – and then imagine how it will look in silicone :(
    3b. They just shouldn’t use some creepy baby faces (baby faces look in real creepy enough) but instead try something more mature or not too much human like – see ZENO.