Animated Anthropomorphic Companion Robots

By: | November 18th, 2014

Watching “The Fading Line” Betwixt Humans & Robots

One hopes that “playful companion robots” are not a Trojan Horse for the “zombie apocalypse!” as depicted in World War Z. In fact, these sophisticated and advanced robots are not quite capable of exactly matching human behavior thereby setting off alarms, bells and whistles including raising hairs on people’s backs.

But we are close, very close to parity. Today’s robots doing their best to act like humans are near to being preferable to people doing a poor job at being human. Lost trust in a human caretaker who pummeled your grandmother for asking for a drink of water? It would never even have entered the mind of a robot.

Robots Look & Act More Human Every Day

According to Yoshi Ishiguro, Osaka University Professor of Engineering who has been developing robots for two decades, “Japan leads the world in playful companion robots.” There is no argument on that point as Japanese people seem to have cornered the market on “cute” and “playful” as is evident in Anime and manga characters, popular Japanese TV and the like. This playfulness seems childlike to Westerners, especially Americans, who embrace the tough cowboy image at an early age, giving up the sense of wonder that children have and Japanese continue to exhibit even in adulthood.

Robots are beginning to act in ways that are unprecedented, able to express and emulate human body and facial characteristics more accurately, giving new meaning to the word kinematics. These advances are due to huge strides being made in artificial intelligence, behavioral science, biology, cognitive sciences, computational algorithms, material science, electrical engineering and more.

Scientists are integrating these disciplines to create interactive humanoids that are charismatic, cosmetically attractive and capable of communicating with body language and appropriate eye contact and facial expressions.

Symbiosis of Robots & Humans

In Japan at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, two robots have been “hired” to help museum guests. Kodomoroid or “child robot” reads news from the Internet, something YouTube has shown can be challenging for humans who show up on viral “blooper” reels all the time. Otonaroid or “adult robot” answers questions asked by museum guests.

These “creatures” don’t have normal anatomy: a visual cortex, vocal cords, a skeleton, a cerebral cortex, a limbic system, a motor cortex, nasal cavities, neurons or cognition. But for what they lack they make up with computation, an exoskeleton, GPS, open-source software, programming algorithms, sensors, silicon, and synthetic skin.

The following video is from Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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