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Researchers' robotic face expresses the needs of yellow slime mold (video)

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Apparently, slime mold has feelings too. Researchers at the University of the West of England have a bit of a history with Physarum polycephalum -- a light-shy yellow mold known for its ability to seek out the shortest route to food. Now, they're on a quest to find out why the organism's so darn smart, and the first in their series of experiments equates the yellow goo's movements to human emotions. The team measured electrical signals the mold produced when moving across micro-electrodes, converting the collected data into sounds. This audio data was weighted against a psychological model and translated into a corresponding emotion. Data collected when the mold was moving across food, for instance, correspond to joy, while anger was derived from the colony's reaction to light.

Unfortunately, mold isn't the most expressive form of life, so when the team demonstrated the studies results at the Living Machines conference in London, they enlisted the help of a robotic head. Taking cues from a soundtrack based on the mold's movements, the dismembered automaton reenacts the recorded emotions with stiff smiles and frowns. Yes, it's as creepy as you might imagine, but those brave enough can watch it go through a cycle of emotions in the video after the break.

[Image credit: Jerry Kirkhart / Flickr]

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