Woman or Machine? Sophisticated Japanese She-Bot Blurs the Line

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At Hong Kong’s “Robots in Motion 2012″ Expo, one of the world’s most sophisticated (and beautiful) robots came to life

Imagine a world where robots conduct traffic, work in factories, make sushi and vacuum office floors. It may not be far away. In Japan, robots are already common fixtures, and the latest prototypes come ever closer to the line separating man from machine. This week, during her first visit to Hong Kong, female android Geminoid F chatted, sang and smiled while an awestruck crowd snapped photos. Her creator, Japanese robotics guru Hiroshi Ishiguro, programmed her built-in computer with 65 behaviors, making her one of the world’s most intelligent robots.

Ishiguro last made international headlines in 2006 when he made an android replica of himself, the Geminoid HI-1. For his pioneering work, CNN named him one of eight “geniuses who will change your life,” and the BBC chronicled his story in the 2008 documentary Man-Machine. Ishiguro says his new robot F, as he’s named her, is more elegant and approachable than his past creations.

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The biggest difference between Ishiguro’s copy of himself and F are the number of actuators, or motor-like mechanisms, that control behaviors. Geminoid HI-1 boasts about 50, while F has only 12. This has dropped the cost from more than $1 million to $110,000, which Ishiguro hopes will help popularize the product. Scientists were able to simulate human-like behaviors using electronic signals in the robot’s built-in computer. The robotic twin can smile, frown and furrow her eyebrows, but most of the time the silicone-skinned clone just looks a little dazed.

 

 

F is already hard at work. She had a brief acting stint last year when she performed onstage at the Tokyo Art Festival, and she recently modeled clothes as part of a Tokyo department-store window display. Of course, it’s impossible to predict how people will use robots as they become more mainstream, but Ishiguro says the practical applications of F are endless. She could be used as a mannequin, a substitute teacher or a hostess. “We can’t predict all of the ways people will use the robots,” Ishiguro says. “We give the technology, but we don’t control the application.”

 

Will robots ultimately become our friends — or even intimate companions?  Ishiguro is betting on it. He says that with the right technology, he can build androids that think, act and react like people. “What is a human?” he asks. “Please define, and we will make a copy.”

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6 Comments »

  1. Robert Hauser April 9, 2012 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Ishiguro isn’t doing anything to change our lives and certainly not for the better….all he is doing is rendering them totally obsolete.

    Perhaps he should market the contraption as a sex doll

  2. Karmen Nava April 3, 2012 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    A healthy, drug, alcohol free human being with all of their creativity and joyful impulsiveness should never be replaced by robots. The rulers of the world are always complaining that there are too many humans, perhaps they want to replace us with obedient robots who lack the spontaneity of these wonderful creatures called humans. A human being is capable of profound love and compassion if molded by caring parents in a nurturing environment, and yet the human can also be molded into a monster if the virtures, of kindness, compassion and love is withheld.

    • Robert Hauser April 9, 2012 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Yes, and large sums of money can turn them into sociopaths like the ones who run Wall Street and thereby, America itself. I wonder how long it will be before they program sheer greed into robots. They might find that counterproductive though.

  3. Abdelazeez April 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Does anyone notice:
    1. A single eye covered (Eye-symbolism)
    2. Red Dress (Lady-in-Red Symbolism)
    3. A scientist mad a work, trying to clone himself first and then trying to create a female robot based on his first work.
    4. The exhorbitant cost of his work. Who is financing him?

    • Robert Hauser April 9, 2012 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Who is financing him?…..well, my money is on Benjamin Bernanke, with the 14 trillion of OUR tax slaves’ money that strangely disappeared.

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