If we learned one thing from seeing WALL-E, it's that robots have feelings, too. Of course, it's one thing to see cute Pixar robots fall in love. It's another to see a simulation of the same thing in real life.
Meet Thomas and Janet. They come from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, also known as Taiwan Tech. Their feelings toward each other are unclear, but since a performance of The Phantom of the Opera last December, they have been working on their smooching technique.
Thomas and Janet's simulated true love is the result of three years of work by a team of Taiwan Tech scientists led by Chyi-Yeu Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering. Most of the robots' movements and (six) facial expressions are programmed ahead of time, Lin told IEEE Spectrum, but the start and synchronization of the smooches are controlled by a computer server.
However, there are still a few kinks to be worked out, according to Li-Chieh Cheng, a Ph.D. student who also worked on the robot project. During the Phantom performance, the theatrical tech crew's walkie-talkies interferred with the computer system.
This appears to be only the beginning of the robot revolution:
Taiwan Tech has some grand plans. "We aim to form a group composed
of autonomous robots, which are like well-trained versatile performers.
They can not only perform different plays, sing songs, or broadcast
news, but also interact with real persons appropriately," Lin told IEEE
Aren't there enough unemployed actors out there? Maybe these robots can also be programmed to wait tables.