Once you get past the relatively creepy look of the robot, you realize what a demonstration of robotics it is. He can imitate people’s facial movements, such as blinking or tilting his head.
A sensor in the chest area notifies the robot when a person approaches it, turning to face it. Eye movements change rapidly, moving from direct eye contact to faster movements, known in medical terms as jerky. The robot can also move up and down easily to mimic breathing.
It was created by engineers in Disney’s Research Division, Walt Disney Imagineering, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the California Institute of Technology.
Although most humanoid robots focus on humans, having uninterrupted eye contact, this is not a proper imitation of how humans interact. The Disney research team explains, quoted by The Verge:
“Looking is a key social signal, shaping the perception we have of interaction partners. For example, people who have long-term eye contact are considered to be like us, intelligent, conscientious, sincere, and trustworthy. Moreover, the gaze can signal complex social and emotional states.
Given the importance of looking at social interactions, as well as its ability to communicate moods and perceptions, it seems pretty clear that it can function as a meaningful tool for an interactive robot. Therefore, the purpose of our work is to develop a system that reproduces this interaction that people have through the eyes.
The main purpose of such a robot would probably be to use it in the American giant’s amusement parks – of course, once its face is covered with something that won’t cause you nightmares.