'Ameca' robot shows off more human-like facial expressions

More fluid movements help it reduce the 'Uncanny Valley' effect.

Engineered Arts

Engineered Arts, the company behind the human-like Mesmer robot series, has unveiled a new creation that may weird you out even more. "Ameca" is a new humanoid robot that doesn't have realistic hair and skin like Mesmer, but can instead show more human-like, natural-looking expressions than others we've seen, as The Verge has reported.

Ameca at first displays confusion as it appears to wake up, then shows mild astonishment when it moves its hands (the hand gestures looks fairly real, too). It then appears surprised to see the viewer or camera, and finishes the video with a smile and welcoming hand gesture.

The improvements in facial animation look to be the result of more fluid movements than we've seen before. By contrast, the Mesmer "Fred" robot had decent head movements, but he "looks like he just had a shot of Novocain in his entire lower face" when he speaks, I wrote back in 2018.

It appears to have a fully articulated head, face, neck, shoulders, arms and hands, but Engineered Arts notes that none of its robots can walk — though the company is studying that capability. It's not clear how Ameca's facial expressions were animated, but some form of motion capture seems a good bet. The company said that Ameca is a "platform for developing AI," but is letting others develop the necessary machine learning algorithms.

Engineered Arts has previously said that it uses "powerful, silent, high-torque" motors to drive Mesmer's body and head movements, with everything designed from scratch to work together perfectly. It also uses sensors like cameras, depth sensors, LiDAR and microphones. To control movements, it has developed browser-based software that works much 3D apps used for VFX or gaming animation.

There's no word on pricing or availability for Ameca or Mesmer, though the company's more basic RoboThespian models reportedly cost $79,000 and up in 2018. In any case, we'll soon get a close-up look at Ameca, as Engineered Arts plans to show it off at CES 2022 in Las Vegas.