Monday, September 1, 2014

Latest robot models look eerily human

TOKYO—The new robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people—almost.
Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, said they will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.

“Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human,” he told reporters today.
“Examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking.”
In a demonstration, the remote-controlled machines moved their pink lips in time to a voice-over, twitched their eyebrows, blinked, and swayed their heads from side to side.
They stay seated but can move their hands.
In a clear triumph, Kodomoroid read the news without stumbling once and recited complex tongue-twisters glibly.
The robot, designed with a girlish appearance, can use a variety of voices, such as a deep male voice one minute and a squeaky girly voice the next.
The speech can be input by text, giving them perfect articulation, according to Ishiguro.
There were some glitches—such as the lips not moving at all while the robot spoke or the Otonaroid announcer robot staying silent twice when asked to introduce itself.
But glitches are common with robots because they are delicate gadgetry sensitive to their environment.
Kodomoroid and the woman robot, Otonaroid, were joined at the demonstration by the minimally-designed Telenoid—a mannequin head with pointed arms that serves as a cuddly companion.
The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin and artificial muscles, will be on display starting tomorrow at Miraikan museum or the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

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