This may seem to fly off the pages of science fiction, but it’s a hot new research field and making rapid progress.
At the Toshiba booth at the Consumer Electronics show, Chihira Aico, a life-sized robot in a pink party dress with pearls, stood like a mannequin, perfectly still—at first. Suddenly, the android began to gesture wildly.
“I can be a news reader, consultant or cheerleader!” She threw her arms up and squealed, “I can get excited!”
Chihira is a new concept for a life-like android. Her creators intend to make her seem even more expressive when interacting with humans. By adding additional motors to her joints, engineers are refining her movements to make them appear fluid while programmers work on her language processing, improving her communications skills and responsiveness. The ultimate goal is for the robot to read human behaviors and emotions, then mimic them, thereby appearing human herself.
This complicated piece of hardware has over 40 motors in her joints to coordinate her body’s movements. Fifteen tiny air pumps on her fact control the blinking of her eyes and the opening of her mouth as she speaks. Toshiba developed Chihira under the direction of Hitoshi Tokuda, the project leader. Osaka University performed the muscle research, building on previous work on prosthetic limbs.
On-lookers thought Chihira was creepy. What do you think?
A hi-tech hotel in Japan, Nagasaki prefecture’s Henn-na Hotel, opening in July will employ ten robots at the check-in counter as receptionists. If you think these humanoid androids are creepy, you might think twice about visiting this hotel. They can establish eye contact and respond to body language.
In my sci-fi romance, Love For Sale, which will be released by The Wild Rose Press on June 10, my androids are completely indistinguishable from human and are sold as companions… programmed to love. When I wrote Love For Sale, I didn’t know about the Japanese life-like robots. I don’t find them creepy but extremely interesting. I’d love to interact with a human-like android.
A recent Pew report entitled, “A.I., Robotics, and the Future of Jobs,” suggests that while it might be some time before we see a robot takeover of our workforce, we’ll be having sex with them sooner than we think. Hum. Interesting. Would you find a sentient being programmed to love you disturbing?
Enjoy your weekend!