Researchers are studying the highly sophisticated ways a baby learns with the development of an eerily realistic robotic baby. Javier Movellan, a research scientist, and his team at the Machine Perception Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, collaborated with Japanese robotics manufacturer Kokoro Company to create Diego-san, a robotic 1 year-old that learns how to control his body and communicate non-verbally with others. The goal of creating this lifelike baby robot is to study how infants develop motor skills and learn to use nonverbal communication through gestures and facial expressions during the first year of their life. Movellan explains, “Basically, we are trying to understand the computational problems that a baby’s brain faces when learning to move its own body and use it to interact with the physical and social world.” See a video clip of Diego-san in action after the jump!

Measuring 4 feet 3 inches tall and weighing about 66 lbs., Diego-san is bigger than your average 1 year-old — due to the fact that it was too hard to make his parts small enough to fit into a normal-sized 1 year-old’s frame. Diego-san’s body has over 60 moving parts, with 20 of those in his head, including high-resolution cameras for eyes, an audio speaker in the mouth, and 6-axis accelerometers in the ears that detect orientation and movement. Diego-san also has 5-fingered hands that are capable of holding objects like plastic bottles. Additionally, he’s equipped with sensors that detect the amount of pressure placed on different joints in his ‘body’, and he has the ability to stand up from a sitting position in a chair.

Javier Movellan and his colleagues are developing the software that allows Diego-san to learn to control his body and to interact with people. The project could be groundbreaking in the computational study of infant development and might even offer new clues in the study of autism and William’s syndrome.

+ Machine Perception Lab

+ Kokoro Company

Via Science Daily