This story is from the category Augmenting Organics
Date posted: 04/03/2008
At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate six basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust.
Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot -- dubbed Kansei, or "sensibility" -- responds to the word "war" by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears "love," and its pink lips smile.
"To live among people, robots need to handle complex social tasks," said project leader Junichi Takeno of Meiji University. "Robots will need to work with emotions, to understand and eventually feel them.
Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies.
There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now startups are marching out robotic home helpers.
For Japan, the robotics revolution is an imperative. With more than a fifth of the population 65 or older, the country is banking on robots to replenish the work force and care for the elderly.
Robots in Japan are serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, and spoon-feeding the elderly. Over 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan in 2005, about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees.
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