An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called 'Han' recognises and interprets people's facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports.
Meet Han, a humanoid robot that can smile, frown, wink, or even act drunk, all at the push of a button. Wowing crowds at an electronics fair in Hong Kong, Han's myriad of facial expressions are controlled by 40 motors. These are covered with a unique human-like skin called "Frubber," short for "Flesh Rubber". The ultra-realistic android can also recognise and interpret the expressions of real humans it comes into contact with. Grace Copplestone is from developers Hanson Robotics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRODUCT MANAGER OF HANSON ROBOTICS, GRACE COPPLESTONE, SAYING: "So he has cameras on his eyes and on his chest, which allow him to recognize people's face, not only that, but recognize their gender, their age, whether they are happy or sad." Han is even able to hold simple conversations thanks to voice recognition software. SETHI SAYING (English): "I think you are perfect man for my wife." / HAN SAYING (English) "I don't have to do whatever you say. I have my own free will." (SOUNDBITE) (English) BUSINESSMAN, HARBHAJAN SINGH SETHI, SAYING: "It was fun and it was interesting. He's answering you. He's answering you to the point." Hanson Robotics says human-like robots could serve a range of functions, especially where face-to-face communication is important. These include behind hotel reception desks and in entertainment venues such as museums and casinos. They also see the technology helping with medical training and as interactive care robots for the elderly. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRODUCT MANAGER OF HANSON ROBOTICS, GRACE COPPLESTONE, SAYING: "We believe a human face on a robot makes it far more approachable, and efficient, and effective in caring for older people." Han, however, won't be the robot to get the job. Instead, the technology is being commercialised on 'Eva' - a more approachable female robot - with plans to produce hundreds of models this year.