Coming Soon: The Robot Teacher That Reads Your Face

By Andrew Moseman | June 25, 2008 3:00 pm

What is your face telling your computer? In the future, the answer could be, “plenty.”If facial recognition software that can compare your features to a criminal database, or gather data for advertisers, wasn’t futuristic enough for you, consider this: Someday when you’re taking a class from a robot instructor, it might be able to tell how well you understand the material solely based on your facial expressions.

Jacob Whitehill, a computer science PhD student at the University of California, San Diego, has created software that would allow him to control how fast a video played just by moving his face. That was the first step, he says—showing that a computer could pick up on facial movements and, if it was programmed correctly, use those movements as instructions. You can check out video of his “smile detector” here.


But for a robot to read your face, it must first know what all your blinks and nods mean. Whitehill is now studying lots of faces of people who are trying to learn; he hopes to figure out the patterns of facial movement that correlate with understanding, or with the frustration that comes with not understanding. So he watched students who were viewing a video lecture, and recorded himself teaching his lab partners the finer points of German grammar. Some of what he’s learned is pretty obvious—you nod more when you understand—but some conclusions might not be—people blink less often during the harder parts of a lecture.

Someday, Whitehill hopes, the machines that teach us will be programmed to understand the ins and outs of human facial expression. If students look happy and engaged, the machine will keep the same speed; if the entire class displays blank stares and no signs of comprehension, it will know to slow down. Whether or not a robot teacher can determine between pupils who don’t understand and ones who just don’t care, however, remains to be seen.

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: computers, gadgets, robots
  • http://www.cracktutorial.com lorie

    Is there a way to locate someone locally to try this?

  • Gabriela Chiran

     Nice, later I will check the smile detector to see how it works. I am  very curious to find out.
    http://www.cabinetstomatologic.org

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »