Meet seven robots putting a human face on a high-tech revolution

From life-like movements to engaging in conversations, these humanoids might trick you into thinking they are real people

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Flawless skin, eyes that follow you and a face that expresses emotions – you might think this is another person.

But, it is really a humanoid that was designed as an “artificial human being”.

Over the years, many of these robots have been developed, marking milestones in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Their human-like skin is made from either silicone or frubber, an elastic form of rubber.

Some have advanced software that allows them to hold conversations, giving them wit and a sense of humour.

Unlike industrial robots, these humanoids were not designed to replace human jobs, but to be a form of entertainment or assist humans.

Word of them has gone viral on social media in the past few years, with videos of humanoid moving their heads and making facial expressions similar to those made by people – smiling, yawning, fear, anger and disgust.

The National takes a look at seven robots that are human-like, from a UN ambassador to a college graduate.

Nikola by Riken Japan

Nikola, an android child, has skin made of silicone and its face can express six basic emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

Developed by Japanese company Riken Guardian Robot Project, the android’s face uses 29 inflatable actuators – motion-producing devices – that control the movement of its artificial muscles.

Six more actuators control head and eyeball movement.

Nikola does not have a body, but the long-term goal of the company is to build an android that can assist people.

“Androids that can emotionally communicate with us will be useful in a wide range of real-life situations, such as caring for older people, and can promote human well-being,” said Wataru Sato from the Riken project.

Ameca by Engineered Arts

This robot’s movements and facial expressions are so human-like it spooked billionaire Elon Musk, who replied with "yikes" to a Twitter post that introduced Ameca in 2021.

Shaped like a human, Ameca is designed to be genderless. It has 17 motors that control its movements and expressions.

Built by British company Engineered Arts, the humanoid cannot walk or produce speech yet.

It has cameras installed in its eyes that allow a person to speak remotely to the people controlling with it.

Adran by Engineered Arts

Footage of Adran moving its head and making facial expressions went viral in December.

The robot is a Mesmer, a system that helps build realistic humanoids that are cost-effective.

They can also display human emotions and can be designed to look like anyone.

“Expressive like nothing else, Mesmer can display a huge range of human emotion,” Engineered Arts said on its website.

“Each Mesmer robot is designed and built from 3D in-house scans of real people, allowing us to imitate human bone structure, skin texture and expressions convincingly.”

Sophia by Hanson Robotics

Sophia is perhaps the most well-known robot to be introduced.

Since her debut in 2016, the humanoid has travelled around the world, entertaining people with her witty comments, facial expressions and movement.

Sophia became so popular, Saudi Arabia made her a citizen and she became a UN ambassador.

What sets Sophia apart from other robots is advanced artificial intelligence that allows her to hold a real conversation with humans.

Sophia the robot

Sophia the robot

It also has machine learning capacity, which means it stores data and improves with time.

The machine can recognise human faces, see emotional expressions and recognise hand gestures.

It can also guess a person’s feelings during a conversation and answer questions to the best of its ability, portraying emotional intelligence in a way.

In 2018, Sophia walked for the first time.

Han by Hanson Robotics

Han is another robot by Hong-Kong-based Hanson Robotics that is super expressive.

Unveiled to the public in 2015, it can also read emotions like Sophia.

Although it does not have a body, frubber skin and facial features could persuade anyone that it was a real human head.

It has also attended many conferences around the world with Sophia to speak about the rise of robots.

Philip K Dick robot by Hanson robotics

Before Han and Sophia, there was Philip K Dick.

It is a humanoid lookalike of the science fiction author, who died in 1982.

The original version of the robot was lost on a flight in 2005. Another was built in 2011, which has 36 motors to provide facial expressions.

It can interact with people using its knowledge of Dick's novels.

Bina48 by Hanson robotics

This humanoid is the first robot to enrol in and successfully complete a college level class.

In 2017, Bina48 completed a philosophy course at California’s Notre Dame de Namur University.

Built in 2010, it structure includes a bust-like head and shoulders mounted on a frame.

It was modelled after lawyer and entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt’s wife, so the robot has her memories, feelings and beliefs installed, according to Hanson Robotics.

It can engage in conversations with other humans, and offers an emotional account of "her" brother’s personality changes after returning home from the Vietnam War.

Updated: February 23, 2022, 7:43 AM