Can a Robot Smile? Wittgenstein on Facial Expression

In Timothy P. Racine & Kathleen L. Slaney (eds.), A Wittgensteinian Perspective on the Use of Conceptual Analysis in Psychology. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 172-194 (2013)
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Recent work in social robotics, which is aimed both at creating an artificial intelligence and providing a test-bed for psychological theories of human social development, involves building robots that can learn from ‘face-to-face’ interaction with human beings — as human infants do. The building-blocks of this interaction include the robot’s ‘expressive’ behaviours, for example, facial-expression and head-and-neck gesture. There is here an ideal opportunity to apply Wittgensteinian conceptual analysis to current theoretical and empirical work in the sciences. Wittgenstein’s philosophical psychology is sympathetic to embodied and situated Artificial Intelligence (see Proudfoot, 2002, 2004b), and his discussion of facial-expression is remarkably modern. In this chapter, I explore his approach to facial-expression, using smiling as a representative example, and apply it to the canonical interactive face robot, Cynthia Breazeal’s Kismet (see e.g. Breazeal, 2009, 2002). I assess the claim that Kismet has expressive behaviours, with the aim of generating philosophical insights for AI.

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Diane Proudfoot
University of Canterbury


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