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Unlike most interaction gynoids, Bina is not a full body robot. Instead, she is basically a head, shoulders, and small external compressor. Currently residing at the Terasem Movement Foundation in Bristol, Vermont, she's one of the most sophisticated facial expression gynoids of 2010. Modelled on a human woman called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Bina, the original spent over a hundred hours conversing with the adaptive AI that powers Bina48, attempting to teach it her personality traits, facial tics, and use of lexicon.
Bina is essentially a physical interface for a chat bot, which can also process the world around it by the now almost standard in embodied robotics, stereoscopic camera-eyes. Thus she can look at who she is talking to and read their facial expressions whilst they read hers.
As the video from the NYT above illustrates, the chat-bot technology powering her, is not exactly Turing test award winning material, but no-one has conquered that aspect yet. Still, overall her responses are quite disappointing, and only serve to emphasise just how far we have to go to create a cohesive personality, in an artificial life-form.
Still, the long-term implications of Bina48 are a lot more radical than a simple chat-bot. Terasem are busy finding every moment of the original Bina's life that was committed to film or tape and are continually shoving it into the robot's database. Terasem themselves are concerned with immortality through uploading consciousness, so it is pretty obvious that Bina48 is in fact a rudimentary attempt at uploading a mind by putting as much of it as present technology will allow, into a robot's mind.
Its not an approach that will ultimately succeed of course because its not capturing the inner workings of the brain - neural scanning is not involved. What is involved is simply the external production of that mind. The woman herself, talking to the bot in person, conveying her thoughts and feelings as input, together with any recording of the same. It is a facsimile of the originial that is slowly being constructed. The interesting part will be seeing just how close they can come.
Making Friends With a Robot Named Bina48
Hanson Robotics, Bina's Creator
Terasem Movement Foundation