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I,Robot: Researchers Create a Robot With a Human Face

"Mask-bot" is able to respond with facial movements and expression in a way that "deceptively looks like a real talking person", the researchers said.

"Mask-bot will influence the way in which we humans communicate with robots in the future," said Gordon Cheng, head of the team at Institute for Cognitive Systems (ICS) at TU Munich. According to a press release, Mask-bot can project realistic three-dimensional heads on a transparent plastic mask, and change the projection on-demand. The projector behind the mask "beams a human face onto the back of the mask, creating very realistic features that can be seen from various angles, including the side."

The scientists claim that Mask-bot can "realistically" reproduce content that is typed via a keyboard and a text-to-speech system. It can output a male or a female voice and can alter emotion from happy to sad. The idea is to use Mask-bot in video conferences or telepresence systems. The researchers believe they can create realistic replicas of people "that actually sits and speaks with you at the conference table."

There is still quite a bit of work to do to achieve this goal and there was no information as to when the researchers could provide a commercially viable model. However, they said that their first Mask-bot cost about $4100 to build, while the second generation Mask-bot 2 should cost only $550.