Meet Nikola, the Android head who learns to express emotions


Nicholas’ happy face.


Emotional expression has long been one of the things that separates man from the machine, but a new android head called Nikola aims to change that.

Nikola is part of the Guardian Robot Project, which aims to “incorporate psychology, brain science, cognitive science and AI research towards a future society where humans, AI and robots can coexist flexibly.” The research is backed by RIKEN, a Japanese government-funded research institute.

In a study recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers described their methods for creating Nikola’s expressive facial movements, as well as the psychological data that both informed and validated these movements. The emotions expressed in the study were: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.


The range of Nikola’s emotions.


“Social interaction is pretty important to people,” said Wataru Sato, lead researcher on the project. “We think androids with such capabilities will be quite important in research and real-world applications.”

One possible application for such technologies is in geriatric care. Of course, Nikola still has some way to go before we will see it give interviews around CES like some others expressive robots we have covered.

Dr. Sato says the next steps include improving and expanding Nikola’s facial expressions, giving it a voice and a body, and instilling all of them with emotional expressiveness that can work together for multimodal expression.

To see Nikola in action, check out the video embedded in this article.

Playing now:
Look at this:

Meet Android that learns to express emotions