With a name like "WD-2," this robot may sound like a robot's robot: all gears and metal. But WD-2 is actually a "face robot"--with a face that is realistically human-looking.
WD-2 can make facial expressions that, if possible, are more human-like than some humans can make. WD-2 is short for "Waseda-Docomo face robot 2," and is the most recent version of the face robot developed by researchers from Waseda University in Tokyo led by mechanical engineer Atsuo Takanishi.
According to a recent article at Robot World News, WD-2 may provide insight into the creation of personal robots. In the future, personal robots may serve a multitude of purposes in work and entertainment with humans, and therefore must be able to communicate in a human-like manner.
WD-2 not only makes facial expressions, but changes its facial expressions with nearly the minute detail of a human face. According to the article, "While other robots make expressions that mean ‘happy,' ‘sad,' ‘excited,' or ‘angry,' WD-2 can make tiny movements to reveal a wide spectrum of meanings."
WD-2 changes its facial features by changing 17 specific facial points on a mask, with each point possessing three degrees of freedom, for a total of 56 degrees of freedom. To make certain points of the face move, a shaft is driven behind the mask at the desired facial point, driven by a DC motor with a simple pulley and a slide screw.
According to the article, the researchers say that the mask can be modified to "copy" a human face, even displaying a person's hair style and skin color when a photo of their face is projected onto the 3D mask.
The robot will appear at Wired NextFest, but you can also watch a video here .