This story is from the category Augmenting Organics
Date posted: 28/07/2005
Japanese scientists have unveiled the most human-looking robot yet devised - a female android they have names Repliee Q1.
Her skin is made of a flexible silicone which bends and flexes in just the same way as organic skin, whilst focusing the light in the same way. Motor-actuators throughout her body allow her to move with something approaching natural human body language, and she possesses sensors to be keenly aware of where things are in relation to her own form.
Move in close, and her eyelids blink in a natural pattern, her hands move deftly, like a human?s, and her chest even rises up and down, seeming to breathe.
Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University says one day robots could fool us into believing they are human.
Sadly, Repliee Q1 is not fully mobile. At present she can only sit down, and interact from that position ? standing and walking are beyond her. However, her upper body is motivated by thirty-one actuators powered by compressed air, which allow natural, fluid movements from her upper half.
"I have developed many robots before," Repliee Q1's designer, Professor Ishiguro, stated, "but I soon realised the importance of its appearance. A human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence."
Before Repliee Q1, Professor Ishiguro developed Repliee R1 which had the appearance of a five-year-old Japanese girl. R1?s head could move in nine directions and her left arm was fully mobile, allowing her to make gestures. allowed her to gesture. Additionally, four high-sensitivity tactile sensors, placed under the skin on that arm, allowed her to react to different pressures ? a gentle squeeze or a crushing grip for example.
Repliee Q1?s far more advanced movements were made possible by motion-tracking studies of a natural human?s body movements, which were mapped into a computer, to be used as the basic template for expression.
Professor Ishiguro believes that it may prove possible to build an android that could pass for a human, if only for a brief period. "Repliee Q1 can interact with people. It can respond to people touching it. It's very satisfying, although we obviously have a long way to go yet."
"An android could get away with it for a short time, 5-10 seconds. However, if we carefully select the situation, we could extend that, to perhaps 10 minutes," he said.
"More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman."
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