Hiroshi Ishiguro a robotic engineer from Osaka University has been developing lifelike robots to
answer fundamental questions like “what is presence?”, “what is identity?” and to discover whether there are cultural differences in the perception of robots.
The first one he built was an image of himself, the second Gemonoid F was patterned after a female actress and appeared in a 20 minute stage play
In the 20-minute play, titled “Sayonara” (“good bye” in Japanese), the android shares the stage with another actress (of the human kind) named Bryerly Long. Long plays the role of a young woman who is suffering from a fatal illness and whose parents bring her an android to serve as a companion.
A human operator controls the robot from a soundproof chamber behind the stage. A microphone captures the operator’s voice and cameras track head and face movements. When the operator speaks or moves, the android follows suit.
The third android,Gemonoid DK, is modeled after Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark. Eerily so.
Beardbot5000, like his Japanese counterparts, is made from silicone rubber and pneumatic actuators and is controlled remotely. Scharfe uses a microphone and camera, hooked up to a computer, to read his voice and facial movements, which are replicated by DK.
The robot will talk, move his head and shrug his shoulders, and even blinks, twitches, and appears to be breathing during conversations. His skin stops at his chest and elbows though, and he has no robotic legs, so you won’t see him walking the Aalborg campus anytime soon.
He’s not nearly so handsome without his skin.
He certainly wouldn’t blend in anywhere but a steampunk convention. Not quite ready for the revolution yet. The next step will have to be adding some AI and autonomy. Already, robots can play soccer and fly like bees.
Once get all that put together, and the internet takes on a life of it’s own, we are fucked.
Of course, that may not be a bad thing.