ucsd-diego-san-robot-infant-9A 4-foot, 3-inch, 66-pound baby sounds like something out of a horrific sci-fi movie. Particularly for someone like me, who is not a huge fan of babies.

However, this nightmare is now a reality.

The team at the University of California at San Diego’s Machine Perception Lab just posted a video (embedded below) of DIEGO-SAN, a rather disturbing looking robot that it designed to replicate a 1-year-old baby.

The Machine Perception Lab conducts development of systems that simulate natural human facial expressions. The team worked with Hanson Robotics to create the face and Japanese robotics company Kokoro to build the body. The result? A rather alarming creature with a face that looks like a cross between a russet potato and a spawn of Satan, and a body straight out The Terminator.Diego1

The National Science Foundation funded this project in an effort to advance research in cognitive artificial intelligence and human-robot interaction. Basically, the goal is to imbue robots with emotional capabilities, although Diego gives me the chills rather than the warm fuzzies. He has high-definition cameras in his eyes and can react to his environment like a real, human, nonterrifying baby would.

“As much a work of art as technology and science, this represents a step forward in the development of emotionally relevant roboticsm,” said Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson.

The vision behind this project is to achieve greater understanding of infant cognitive development. Dr. Javier Movellan founded the Machine Perception Lab in 1997 to advance study of the brain by creating “machine perception primates” that can interact with humans in natural conditions. He worked with children and robots as part of the MP Lab’s rubi project, which analyzed how toddlers behaved when social robots were a part of their daily environment.

“Its main goal is to try and understand the development of sensory motor intelligence from a computational point of view,” Dr. Javier Movellan said, as reported by Gizmag. “It brings together researchers in developmental psychology, machine learning, neuroscience, computer vision and robotics. 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 worlds.”

Diego has been gestating (it’s OK, I am cringing too) for years and has at last made its film debut. The MP Lab also worked with Hanson Robotics to create an Albert Einstein robot which sports a Stormtrooper-like outfit below an eccentric tuft of white hair.

As much as I fear childbirth, it seems less frightening than spending an hour with either of these brilliant, yet disturbing, creations.

Photos courtesy of Gizmag.com