- Title: JAPAN: Japan's androids are increasingly looking like human beings.
- Date: 4th November 2006
- Summary: LOW ANGLE SHOT OF ADULT ANDROID SIDE SHOT OF BOTH ANDROIDS
- Embargoed: 19th November 2006 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Science / Technology
- Reuters ID: LVA47KDAZ7STOIFUZLI2QSY3JPF5
- Story Text: Just doing human tasks is not enough for modern-day robots made in Japan. They are increasingly required to not only act like human but also look like human.
A robotics laboratory at Osaka University unveiled the latest versions of its androids - an adult female and a little girl - during a robot technology symposium in Tokyo Wednesday (October 31).
Each equipped with about 50 sensors and a number of motors that allow them to move in a human-like manner, the androids' skin is made of flexible silicone instead of hard plastic. They blink, fluttering their eye lids, and even breathe with compressed air pumped into their bodies. When touched on the face, the 1.5-metre-tall female robot - called Repliee (pronounced REP-Lee) Q-1 - shows facial expressions as if it really felt the tickle. She seems friendly most of the time, but gets very tough occasionally - when a stranger pats her on the shoulder. When that happens, she turns around and says, "Stop it! What's that matter with you?"
"Because I look more like a human being, I think I can communicate with humans better than other metallic or mechanical-looking robots can," adult female android Repliee Q-1 said.
Developers of the androids say they have put an extreme importance on their appearances, believing that a human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence. These androids are designed to be used as conversation partners for elderly and bed-ridden people, receptionists, or even television anchorpersons, android developers say.
"These robots are capable of making movements that human beings are unconsciously making - such as blinking and breathing. That's one of the factors that make them look very real," said Motoko Noma, a Ph.D candidate at Osaka University and one of the androids' creators.
A little robot called Repliee R-1, modelled after a 5-year-old actual human girl, mumbles words like "Bye-bye," "yes," "no," and "That hurts."
The audience seemed to agree these humanoids are not like anything they've seen before, at least outside of science-fiction movies, but expressed mixed feelings.
"Their skin has got a real feel. I guess they've applied some special effects, but their eyes do blink and look the same as human beings'," Yusuke Onozaki, a 22-year-old college student.
Megumi Ishida, 32, an audio engineer, said she felt uneasy.
"They don't show feelings. They've got artificial smiles and expressions, but I don't see their emotion and that's awkward," Ishida said.
The Japanese government estimates the market for service robots will rise to 10 billion US dollars within a decade. Japan is home to almost half of the world's 800,000 industrial robots.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None