Meka Robotics, Roland Philippsen (Standford, Willow Garage), and Luis Sentis at UT Austin’s Human Centered Robotics Group have created a cute head called Dreamer for their humanoid platform. The design was based on female anime and comic characters to give it a friendly appearance. One of the things you will immediately notice in the video is how alive the eyes are, thanks to their high movement speed, yet they are still able to perform some rough stereoscopic calibration (normally an issue with moving eyes). Another important point is that the eyelids move perfectly in sync with one another – which avoids the unpleasant drowsiness and ticks seen in other examples. Similar to Simon, another head developed for Meka’s platform, Dreamer has color-changing ears. The ears can curl and bend like a dog to augment various emotions. It’s unclear if they plan on adding eyebrows or lips to further enhance Dreamer’s expressive capabilities, but so far it seems like a pretty nice piece of kit.
The smaller ears aren’t quite as distracting as those on Simon, but my one criticism would be that animal-like ears seem a little out of place on a humanoid head. That said, a little whimsy goes a long way in robots, and they should help make the robot more kid-friendly. And here’s a video showcasing their work on compliance in the body.