Meet Mira, an adorable robot that plays peek-a-boo

31 Jul 2015

A robot built by a technical director at Pixar seems to be finally finding ways to make our technology love us as much as we love it.

Made by Alonso Martinez – who worked on Pixar blockbusters Up and Inside Out – Mira is an egg-like robot that reacts to its owner’s activities.

This video, for example, shows it responding to a standard parent-infant game of peek-a-boo.

A “social robot”, Mira interacts with you using computer vision. “Social interaction between humans can be very complex, but Mira explores how much can you simplify and stylise those interactions while preserving that human element,” explains the trio of creators, Martinez, Aaron Nathan and Vijay Sundaram.

“Experience with my last robot taught me that I wanted to concentrate all of my efforts toward what I cared the most about,” Martinez said to PSFK.

“I love creating characters that make people smile and one day I hope to make robots that not only entertain us but provide insights into our lives and fuel us to be better.”

Still just a prototype, Mira tracks people’s faces. The hope is that the next iteration can go a whole lot further than that.

Just looking at the robot, it screams Pixar. With the sound effects adding to a charm that has captured many a child around the world since Toy Story came on the scene in the mid-’90s.

Made by 3D printing parts – with operations of just lights, sound and basic movement – this early version is already pretty impressive. The makers installed facial tracking software to give it the skills shown in the video above, with high hopes for future iterations.

“Like the cognitive development of a baby, Mira is at the stage where the funniest thing in the world is object permanence, hence why she loves playing the game of peek-a-boo,” Martinez says.

“Humans are absolutely incredible at pattern recognition and as soon as robots act in a predictable way, it breaks the magic of the illusion of life.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic