Lego urged to stop angry faces

The makers of Lego need to get positive and stop drawing its famous brick figures with angry expressions, a robot specialist says.

Christoph Bartneck, director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Canterbury, painstakingly reviewed the facial expressions on 6000 Lego figures to see what today's children are being faced with.

While once overwhelmingly positive, today's tiny brick men and women are far more likely to carry an angry or fearful expression.

And the Danish-founded firm is using a "considerable array of weapon systems" as it moves towards what Dr Bartneck describes as "more conflict-based play themes".

The robot specialist says the trend is a worrying one as even something as simple as a smile or a frown on a toy can likely influence a child's behaviour or development over time.

"Children's toys and how they are perceived can have a significant impact on children," Dr Bartneck said ahead of a Japanese conference where his research is to be presented.

"We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts on how children play."

He said the company was increasingly dealing with darker themes of conflict, where good forces struggling with bad.

With more negativity, Lego may struggle to hold onto its highly positive reputation with kids growing up today, he said.

Dr Bartneck warned designers to take greater care with expression design, suggesting they could experiment with a more comic-style expression that "can convey a full spectrum of emotions and intensities".

The findings will be presented at the first International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan in August.