Japanese Robot taught to laugh at jokes to make it seem human

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If you’re freaked out by robots, maybe a laughing robot will make you feel better? Well, that’s what scientists at Kyoto University believed as they taught a Japanese robot to laugh.

Why can this Japanese robot laugh?

Via Metro, a team of researchers have been reaching robots now to react to humour. Published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI, the team are working with a Japanese robot named Erica.

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“We think that one of the important functions of conversational AI is empathy,’ said Dr Koji Inoue, the lead author of the study. “Conversation is, of course, multimodal, not just responding correctly. So we decided that one way a robot can empathise with users is to share their laughter, which you cannot do with a text-based chatbot.”

The scientists created an AI program that could detect laugher and jokes. This allows the robot to decide if something in a conversation is funny and how to respond. If it’s only slightly funny, the robot can chuckle. If it’s hilarious, then a full-on belly laugh could be more appropriate.

This research could be integral for creating commercial robots that feel natural. While products like TeslaBot and CyberOne are impressive, their lack of humanity will be clearly noticed.

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Humans respond well

According to the team, human response to the laughing robot is positive. In a number of test conversations, humans were not deterred by the laughing Japanese robot.

However, the team notes that a lot of work needs to be done in order to make the system truly natural. In the future, the scientists want each robot to have distinct laughing protocols.

“Robots should actually have a distinct character, and we think that they can show this through their conversational behaviours, such as laughing, eye gaze, gestures and speaking style,” Inoue said.

The team believes that it may take between “10 to 20” years to create systems that feel truly natural. When that happens “we can finally have a casual chat with a robot like we would with a friend.”