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ExGenNet: Learning to Generate Robotic Facial Expression Using Facial Expression Recognition

Niyati Rawal; Dorothea Koert; Cigdem Turan; Kristian Kersting; Jan Peters; Ruth Stock-Homburg
In: Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Vol. 8, Pages 0-10, Frontiers, 2021.


The ability of a robot to generate appropriate facial expressions is a key aspect of perceived sociability in human-robot interaction. Yet many existing approaches rely on the use of a set of fixed, preprogrammed joint configurations for expression generation. Automating this process provides potential advantages to scale better to different robot types and various expressions. To this end, we introduce ExGenNet, a novel deep generative approach for facial expressions on humanoid robots. ExGenNets connect a generator network to reconstruct simplified facial images from robot joint configurations with a classifier network for state-of-the-art facial expression recognition. The robots⤙ joint configurations are optimized for various expressions by backpropagating the loss between the predicted expression and intended expression through the classification network and the generator network. To improve the transfer between human training images and images of different robots, we propose to use extracted features in the classifier as well as in the generator network. Unlike most studies on facial expression generation, ExGenNets can produce multiple configurations for each facial expression and be transferred between robots. Experimental evaluations on two robots with highly human-like faces, Alfie (Furhat Robot) and the android robot Elenoide, show that ExGenNet can successfully generate sets of joint configurations for predefined facial expressions on both robots. This ability of ExGenNet to generate realistic facial expressions was further validated in a pilot study where the majority of human subjects could accurately recognize most of the generated facial expressions on both the robots.

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