Pixar trains robots in the art of etiquette

The creators of WALL-E are helping robot developers create a body language for robots, so that we fleshy ones can understand them

Is this the next step in the robot takeover?

Nope – Silicon Valley robot developer Willow Grange has enlisted the help of Pixar Animation Studios – the creators of WALL-E – to train robots in understanding body language.

So that they can infiltrate human society more effectively, right?

Calm down – according to Willow Garage developer Leila Takayama, the aim is to instil them with some basic manners, such as moving to one side of a corridor to let our fragile, fleshy forms past. Polite robots will even use their own body language to express themselves, thanks to the character animation whiz-kids at Pixar.

My robot butler will communicate through interpretive dance?

Not exactly – at the moment, humans are confused by robots that suddenly jerk into action after processing a decision, so in the future they might scratch their head, WALL-E style, as they're considering their next move.

Robots will definitely have arms and a head, then?

They'll have to – or they risk falling into the Uncanny Valley. The Willow Grange PR2 (above) was originally designed with a "tarantula-like" head. "We realised that everyone would just run away," says Takayama. Eventually they came up with the more WALL-E style design seen above.

[source: FT]

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