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Eyes-The Window to the Soul

by on October 27, 2012

I was thinking about our discussion of our eyes compared to robots’ eyes and how lifeless theirs’ seem in comparison to ours’, and also how we regard our eyes as being the ‘window to the soul’. I had a look into why it is we think this and came across some research into how the appearance of our eyes (in terms of the unique patterns they have) may be linked to certain personality traits (the second link has some other info that the first doesn’t):

If this is true then it shows how important the eyes are in enhancing our individual identities. While robots have been given different coloured eyes I’m not  sure if much work has yet been done on the unique patterning of the iris.

Another thing this study talked about briefly (in the second link) was pupil dilation. That got me thinking about body language and the fact that when we’re happy or see something we like our pupils dilate (I think to take more of the thing we like ‘in’ with our eyes) and by contrast constrict when we’re angry. Apparently we also like things that have larger eyes in comparison to their head e.g. babies and baby animals-they look cute.

These are all subtle changes in the shape/pattern/positioning of the eyes that seem to affect the way we perceive each other and other living things. Pupil movements aren’t even noticeable unless we make a conscious effort to stare at someone’s eyes. Perhaps the lack of movement in not just the muscles around the eyes, but also of the pupil and lack of unique/changeable patterning of the iris is what makes robots’ eyes look so creepy/lifeless. Though the change in movement of human eyes is very subtle and not always noticeable, we must have ways of subconsciously reading it and I think this may be what makes us feel inexplicably comfortable when observing a human compared to the ‘uncanny’ feeling we get when observing a robot.

Here are a couple of videos of robots who are designed to look more human-like by having a wider range of facial expressions and eye movements. The second one (of the woman) looks remarkably realistic (her movements directly correspond with those of the man at the computer which may be why) but I still think there’s something rather creepy about them-they still somehow lack complete humanness.!


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