Humanoid 'Jules' is a disembodied androgynous robotic head that automatically copies the movement and expressions of a human face.
The technology works using 10 stock human emotions - for instance happiness, sadness, concern - that have been programmed into the robot.
The software then maps what it sees to Jules' face to combine expressions instantly to mimic those being shown by a human subject.
Controlled only by its own software, Jules can grin and grimace, furrow its brow, and 'speak' as the software translates real expressions observed through video camera 'eyes'.
If you want people to be able to interact with machines, then you've got to be able to do it naturally...When it moves it has to look natural in the same way that human expressions are, to make interaction useful.Chris Melhuish, head of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory
The robot - made by US roboticist David Hanson - then copies the facial expressions of the human by converting the video image into digital commands that make the robot's inner workings produce mirrored movements.
And it all happens in real time as Jules is bright enough to interpret the commands at 25 frames per second.
The project was developed over more than three years at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a lab run by the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol under the leadership of Chris Melhuish, Neill Campbell and Peter Jaeckel.
The aim of the developers was to make it easier for humans to interact with 'artificial intelligence', in other words to create a 'feelgood' factor.
The BRL's Peter Jaeckel said: ''Realistic, life-like robot appearance is crucial for sophisticated face-to-face robot - human interaction.
''Researchers predict that one day robotic companions will work, or assist humans in space, care and education. Robot appearance and behaviour need to be well matched to meet expectations formed by our social experience."
But a warning note has been sounded.
Kerstin Dautenhahn, a robotics researcher at the University of Herefordshire, believes that people may be disconcerted by humanoid automatons that simply look 'too human'.
''People might easily be fooled into thinking that this robot not only looks like a human and behaves like a human, but that it can also feel like a human. And that's not true," she pointed out.