Scientists teach robots to laugh to differentiate between chuckles and squeals

Scientists have taught a robot to laugh at jokes in an effort to make it appear more human.

The robots have been trained in "appropriate" laughter, including how to differentiate between chuckles and rip-roaring squeals.

The training has been undertaken by researches at Kyoto University in Japan using artificial intelligence.

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The study has been documented in the scientific journal, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, where scientists have described their experience of working with a robot called Erica, with the hope of making conversations more natural.

The journal's lead author, Dr Koji Inoue, an assistant professor at Kyoto University in the Department of Intelligence Science and Technology said: "We think that one of the important functions of conversational AI is empathy.

"Conversation is, of course, multimodal, not just responding correctly. So we decided that one way a robot can empathise with users is to share their laughter, which you cannot do with a text-based chatbot."

The researchers created a "shared laughter" model, using AI to detect laughter, decide whether to laugh and also decide what kind of laughter would be most appropriate for a given situation.

The system was tested with four dialogues, lasting around two to three minutes, between real people and Erica, with the tests going well.

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However there is still work to do in creating situations that involve natural laughter.

Dr Inoue said: "Robots should actually have a distinct character, and we think that they can show this through their conversational behaviours, such as laughing, eye gaze, gestures and speaking style.

"We do not think this is an easy problem at all, and it may well take more than 10 to 20 years before we can finally have a casual chat with a robot like we would with a friend."


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