Why do we find human like androids so unsettling?
BBC Science Focus|January 2022
Alex Hughes spoke to the creator of Ameca, a humanoid robot that’s been going viral online for its uncanny facial expressions
WILL JACKSON

In December, Engineered Arts, a robotics company based in Cornwall, took Twitter by storm with a video of one its latest creations, a humanoid robot named Ameca (check it out at engineeredarts.co.uk/robot/ameca/). The video was shared by thousands of people on Twitter, who were disturbed and amazed in equal measure by its human appearance and lifelike expressions.

We spoke to Will Jackson, CEO of Engineered Arts, about how Ameca was made, what the robot will be used for, and whether he finds his own creation unsettling.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SAW THE VIDEO OF AMECA ONLINE, BUT WHAT IS THE ROBOT FOR?

With Ameca, we wanted to create an intuitive and straightforward way to communicate with a machine. It’s essentially a humanoid designed as a platform for AI. There are a lot of people working on software for human interaction right now, things like facial recognition, expression and estimation, and then there’s things like gesture recognition, speech recognition and generated textto-speech. While there are lots of people working on the software, there’s very little hardware. If you want people to really interact with an AI, a screen and keyboard isn’t going to cut it.

We wanted to build a machine that, if you smile, knows you’re happy and if you frown, knows you disapprove. You don’t even have to speak to communicate; a nod of the head, a wink, or a smile is worth a thousand words. These were the kind of interactions that we wanted to explore with Ameca.

HOW DOES AMECA WORK?

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BBC SCIENCE FOCUSView All

The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Metaverse

Facebook recently changed its name to 'Meta' in order to position itself at the forefront of a new digital frontier called the metaverse. But what the heck is the metaverse, and what can it offer us mere mortals who do not inhabit the shiny Silicon Valley bubble?

10+ mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

MIGRAINES:CAN NEW TREATMENTS HELP EASE THE SUFFERING OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE?

Better understanding of the processes driving migraine pain is leading to promising new remedies

3 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

ARGOS OR AMAZON: WHO DID IT FIRST?

You can thank an in-flight catalogue, not the internet, for the emergence of convenient same-day deliveries

2 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

Can a smartphone be eco-friendly and desirable?

Fairphone has a long history of producing some of the most eco-friendly smartphones around. In fact, it is currently ranked in the top 1 per cent of sustainable companies in the world according to EcoVadis, a sustainability ratings company.

4 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

MALE CONTRACEPTIVE PILL ONE STEP CLOSER

The researchers behind the drug hope it will start human clinical trials later this year

2 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

Are we living in a multiverse?

Are there universes where the laws of physics do not apply, like in the newest Doctor Strange outing?

3 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

WHY I DITCHED MY FITNESS TRACKER

Stop chasing a 10,000-step target - Active 10 is an easier, more effective way to get fit

2 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

FIT TO BURST

INFLATION IS A USEFUL TOOL IN NATURE, ALLOWING ANIMALS TO PROJECT SOUNDS, SCARE OFF PREDATORS OR EVEN ATTRACT A MATE. LET'S BRING ON THE BLOAT!

5 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

COVID RISK: IS IT SAFE FOR ME TO RESUME ALL MY NORMAL ACTIVITIES?

In a restriction-free world, how risky is going to the pub vs going to the supermarket?

3 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022

HAPPINESS: IS IT RIGHT TO PURSUE IT AT ALL COSTS?

Research suggests that focusing on your own happiness can end up making you miserable

3 mins read
BBC Science Focus
April 2022
RELATED STORIES

MUSK WARS WITH TWITTER OVER HIS BUYOUT DEAL - ON TWITTER

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised that taking over Twitter would enable him to rid the social media platform of its annoying “spam bots.” Now he’s arguing — without presenting any evidence — that there might be just too many of those automated accounts for the $44 billion deal to move ahead.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

‘TWITTER PHILANTHROPY' REVEALS CHASMS IN SOCIAL SAFETY NET

Single father Billy Price was already struggling to make ends meet before someone broke into his Michigan storage unit, stole his identity and ruined his credit.

6 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

The Twitter Deal's Big Debt Bill

If the acquisition goes through, the company will face mounting interest expenses as it tries to grow

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 23, 2022

The Big Twitter Takeover

Elon Musk's latest high-profile move has shaken more than just the tech community

5 mins read
YOU South Africa
12 May 2022

ELON MUSK ASKED TO TESTIFY ON TWITTER BY UK PARLIAMENT

A British parliamentary committee scrutinizing draft online safety legislation has invited Elon Musk to discuss his plans to buy Twitter and the changes he’s proposing for the social media platform.

1 min read
Techlife News
May 07, 2022

MUSK GETS $7B BACKING FOR TWITTER BID FROM TECH HEAVYWEIGHTS

Billionaire Elon Musk has strengthened the equity stake of his offer to buy Twitter with commitments of more than $7 billion from a range of investors, including Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 07, 2022

ELON MUSK'S BIG PLANS FOR TWITTER: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has laid out some bold, if still vague, plans for transforming Twitter into a place of “maximum fun” once he buys the social media platform for $44 billion and takes it private.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
May 06, 2022

IS SHAWN OK?

I just wanna communicate with you guys in a real honest way," Shawn wrote in a follow-up tweet.

1 min read
Star
May 09, 2022

What Elon Wants...

The world's richest man spent $44 billion on Twitter but says he doesn't "care about the economics at all"

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 02, 2022

TRUMP SAYS HE HAS NO PLANS TO REJOIN TWITTER AFTER MUSK DEAL

Former President Donald Trump said that he has no intention of rejoining Twitter even if his account is reinstated following Elon Musk’s agreement to buy the social media giant for roughly $44 billion.

2 mins read
Techlife News
April 30, 2022