Furhat Robotics' new 'social robot' gives the AI assistant a face

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,959   +784
Staff member

Furhat Robotics wants to change that. The Stockholm-based startup unveiled its Furhat “social robot” at WebSummit on Tuesday. Think of it as a smart speaker, but with a face. The company thinks it will give voice assistants more humanity and make them easier to talk to in a more natural way.

The AI uses a projection system to display a lifelike face on a three-dimensional head-shaped display. It is capable of communicating a wide range of facial expressions and will respond with them accordingly — talk to it angrily, and it might scowl at you, but tell it “good morning,” and it will greet you with a friendly smile.

“This is the culmination of many years of dedicated research and development both internally and through working with industry and technology partners,” said Furhat CEO Samer Al Moubayed. “From its beginnings at KTH [Royal Institute of Technology] we have taken Furhat to a point where social robots are no longer a hope for the future but a reality of today.”

The head has three degrees of motion and will attempt to maintain eye contact with the speaker. It achieves this through a wide-angle high-definition camera and beamforming stereo microphones.

The face is fully customizable. Options including male, female, child, and animal-like faces are available. Gestures and facial expressions are also customizable. There are a variety of voices to choose from as well. Furhat says the customization possibilities allow users to create unique robots with individual personalities.

While the company’s press release states that the robot is “market-ready,” it appears it is not up for sale to consumers just yet. The company is looking for more developers to sign on to the project. It has already gained interest from firms like Disney Research, T-Mobile, Honda, Intel, and others.

Personally, I don’t think talking to an AI with a face is going to make me more comfortable. It seems a little creepy to me, but hey, that's how Siri felt at first too, so who knows.

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Posts: 3,441   +3,982
Why would anyone want to humanize what we all know is just a server farm somewhere? People don't see this technology as "magical" anymore, at least not after the age of three. Same goes for pretty much any other tech unless the people exposed to it are from some deeply impoverished and/or isolated part of the globe. Honestly, I can't think of a single logical reason for science to be trying so hard to reach the Uncanny Valley..well, no good reasons, anyway. Could we maybe focus on making people smarter for then next couple decades? And that doesn't just mean improving their Googling skills.

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,014   +6,783
I'm sorry but your going to have to give us a wide selection of faces and make a few of them capable of cussing like a sailor if they are intended to blend into the population ...... and please, NO Hillary samples!