The human face plays an important role in communication as it allows to discern different interaction partners and provides nonverbal feedback. In this paper, we present a soft real-time vision system that enables an interactive robot to analyze faces of interaction partners not only to identify them, but also to recognize their respective facial expressions as a dialog-controlling non-verbal cue. In order to assure applicability in real world environments, a robust detection scheme is presented which detects faces and basic facial features such as the position of the mouth, nose, and eyes. Based on these detected features, facial parameters are extracted using active appearance models (AAMs) and conveyed to support vector machine (SVM) classifiers to identify both persons and facial expressions. This paper focuses on four different initialization methods for determining the initial shape for the AAM algorithm and their particular performance in two different classification tasks with respect to either the facial expression DaFEx database and to the real world data obtained from a robot’s point of view.