Emotion-reading doll is a somewhat creepy example of what’s possible with AI

computer vision artificially intelligent doll
OK, let’s get this out the way up top: A robot doll that can sense your child’s emotions and change how it behaves accordingly sounds like the kind of high-concept horror movie a Hollywood screenwriter would pitch after binge-watching Westworld and a Chucky marathon.

In reality, it describes research being carried out by investigators at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real, Spain. What they’ve built as a proof of concept is an artificially intelligent doll that can recognize eight different emotions and runs on an AI chip costing just 115 euros (around $130). Emotion recognition is carried out through facial-recognition technology, via a camera hidden in the doll’s mouth.

As project leader Oscar Deniz explains, the doll is something of a red herring.

“It’s actually an application of an open vision platform we have developed in our Horizon 2020 project, ‘Eyes of Things,’” Deniz, whose work focuses on computer vision and machine learning, told Digital Trends. “The vision platform has been designed for small size, cost, and maximum efficiency. Thus, the doll contains the board along with camera and battery. The board processes images to recognize the girl’s facial expression, allowing the doll to react accordingly. All of this is done inside the doll, meaning that no images are sent to the internet, which has been the case in other toys. This not only allows for better response time; it guarantees privacy.”

smart doll emotions facial recognition smartdollemotion

The “Eyes of Things” project started in January 2015 and runs through December of this year. Its objective is to design a new embedded vision platform, optimized for size, cost, performanc,e and power consumption. While there are plenty of fascinating facial-recognition technologies around, the fact that this tool does everything locally, rather than in the cloud, makes it particularly intriguing.

Besides dolls and other intelligent toys, the project aims to develop similar uses of vision-based AI for drones, robots, headsets, and video surveillance. Another use case the team has developed is something called the “museum audio guide,” which comprises a headset containing the AI board, a battery, and camera. The idea is that, when a museum visitors puts the headset on, the headset “sees” what they are looking at and provides contextual information.

“Currently, we have a number of prototypes available, and we are working on some demonstrators, but the idea is to generate [excitement] so that the platform can be commercialized,” Deniz said.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Sensors.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.