Team from UC San Diego Use Human Face as Remote-Control Unit

This is possibly the ultimate hack-turning your face into a remote control unit. A computer-science Ph.D student from UC San Diego can use his fizzog to speed up or slow down video, as part of a project that hopes to make robots better teachers using automated facial expression recognition.

Jacob Whitehill, who is leading the team from the Machine Perception Laboratory, reckons that it could put an end to confused students during lectures. "If I am a student dealing with a robot teacher and I am completely puzzled and yet the robot keeps presenting new material, that's not going to be very useful to me," he said. "If, instead, the robot stops and says, 'Oh, maybe you're confused,' and I say, 'Yes, thank you for stopping,' that's really good."

Whitehill gave a German grammar lesson in his lab-ja, ja, das is fantastich!-and recorded it using video-conferencing software in an effort to understand the facial expressions used by people as they learn and process new information. Nods from the students generally meant understanding of the subject, while a frown or puzzled look means, "Wassee on about?"

There's a video of Jacob and his fabulous zapper face in action here, and the team's findings are being presented today at the 2008 IEEE International Workshop on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition for Human Communicative Behavior Analysis. [Science Daily via Neatorama]