A further step in the development of artificial intelligence is currently being practiced in Japan, where researchers at the Universities of Tokyo and Osaka are training a conversational artificial intelligence system to be able to laugh and smile. The aim is to achieve greater naturalness in conversation with humans, because the challenge is not for a robot to laugh or smile, but for it to do so at the right time and with the right intensity.
Timing and intensity in laughter and smiling with keys to empathetic communication
Koji Inoue, assistant professor of computer science at Kyoto University and co-author of the study explains that empathy is one of the essential functions of communication and that conversation, to be multimodal, does not rely solely on responding appropriately with words Laughter and smiling are essential in nonverbal communicationand the appropriateness of the timing and intensity with which they are added to the conversation.
The system being trained by the researchers integrates all these elements so that a robot can combine them in the best way, detecting not only appropriate “laughable behavior” but also responding in a timely and appropriate manner.
Erica is the name the researchers have given to the prototype they are working with, a robot that is already able to understand natural human language to which it responds with a synthesized voice, adding blinking and eye movements, gestures that help provide an empathetic response to conversation.
Through conversations in which Erica interacts with student volunteers, they rate Erica’s laughter and smile response in terms of empathy, naturalness, similarity to the human smile… It has been found that the simulations that work best are those conversations in which Erica never smiles or in which she smiles every time she detects a smile in her interlocutor.