Trying to be Funny; Japanese Biped Humanoid Robot Learns to Emote

June 19, 2014, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Humour can be confusing. One thing may seem humorous or funny to one person, while at the same time, it may seem just flat to another.

It often becomes difficult to predict the side of the line of the joke where it is going to fall without knowing the person who is making the joke. Does anyone think it is possible to divide or break down a joke into several components and convert them into some program codes and deliver them to a robot?

The researchers at Waseda University, Japan, have been trying to find out the answer to this question. And for this they have been using the Kobian Emotion Expression Biped Humanoid Robot, which was unveiled back in 2009.



Talking of robots, we know you have already read a lot on so many such innovations in the near past. From the Outrunner to the one who shakes hands with you to some others that walks like you, we have told you a whole lot of stories already. You can read more here too.

Professor Atsuo Takanishi led the team and tried to break down comedy into three methods. These methods were: funny behavior, funny context, and funny character. Exaggeration, dirty jokes, parody, sympathetic stories, and laughter come under funny behavior.

A running gag or doing something unexpected comes under funny context. Self-flattery, self-depreciation and imitation come under funny character, according to the team.

Some sketches were written so as to be performed by Kobian. And they worked to some degree. While Kobian was performing, some volunteers were invited to watch. And it was monitored using EMG sensors, accelerometers, and video cameras for detecting smiles and laughter.

A human comedian that was familiar to the Japanese audience was imitated and it was measured to be the funniest. And, 80 percent of the audience were either smiling or laughing. Transformation and vitriol were found to be least funny having received a response from only 10% of the audience.

This created an improving effect on the moods of the volunteers. They were asked to take a profile of mood state test, before and after watching Kobian perform. The test taken afterwards, showed lower levels of depression, stress, anger, fatigue, and confusion.

kobian 2

More complex routines for Kobian are being written by the team and they are looking forward to test them on larger audiences. It is considered that the response to a robot comedian from a Japanese audience will be favorable when compared to that from a western one.

“Bipedal Humanoid Robot That Makes Humans Laugh With Use of the Method of Comedy and Affects Their Psychological State Actively” was a paper presented by professor Takanishi and his team, at the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

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