Softbank Robotics and Affectiva have announced a partnership to bring emotion recognition to the humanoid robot ‘Pepper’.
Softbank’s Pepper is already in use in many locations in Japan. Its main selling point is its humanlike qualities and friendly, natural interaction. Although humanlike, it’s still clearly a robot and hence avoids the ‘uncanny valley’ trap.
Pepper already has facial recognition and emotion recognition based on voice, face and body movement. The partnership with Affectiva is designed to improve these abilities.
Affectiva specialises in ‘artificial emotion intelligence’ (Emotion AI). Its systems are aimed at deeper analysis of emotions than simple states such as ‘happiness’ or ‘anger’. According to the company:
“Running in real-time, Affectiva’s Emotion AI analyses facial and vocal expressions to go beyond identifying basic human emotions such as joy, anger and surprise – it promises to detect more complex cognitive states and expressions such as distraction or drowsiness; and can differentiate between a smile and a smirk.”
Using this analysis, pepper will be able to adjust its interactions accordingly.
Which makes me wonder how good the AI is at detecting sarcasm, something often experienced by customer facing staff – whether human or robotic.