Guests in hotels in five years' time may come face-to-face with a robot able to read their emotions when they check in. Researchers at C-lab at the University of Paderborn in Germany have developed a prototype robot head that can move its lips, ears, neck and eyes to reflect emotions such as happiness and sadness.
"The machine does not feel emotions, but it does show emotion," said Dr Bernd Kleinjohann, executive vice-director of C-lab.
Within five to eight years he said it could be possible for a commercial model to be developed. "For example, a robot on a hotel reception desk could tell customers there is a room available in a friendly manner," he said.
The head, which has cameras for eyes, scans what is in front of it, and uses a complex set of mathematical equations to differentiate between smiles and frowns. It is not yet capable of detecting fine nuances of colour, such as when a face flushes red with anger, but it does see in colour, said Kleinjohann. "The autonomous machine is the future - this is the first step in making it more human," he added.