Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

06 May 2006

Android News Update

First, from Korea we learn that a team of Korean scientists have unveiled a new android design that can learn faces and shake hands.

"Through the wireless networking ability, NBH-1 can recognize people using facial recognition technology," said Yoo, a professor at the state-run Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

It has enough in-built artificial intelligence to be able to recognize voices and motions as well, Yoo said.

Similar to Japanese car maker Honda Motor's ASIMO unveiled in 2000 that can greet and dance with dignitaries, the NBH-1 can shake hands and turn and walk in a range of directions, he added.
Here is more on another Korean android that is closer to human appearance than NBH-1.

Next, from Japan, we hear from Osaka University's Intelligent Robot Lab Chief, Hiroshi Ishiguro, about his new robot, Repliee.

For a mesmerizing few seconds from several meters away, Repliee Q1expo was virtually indistinguishable from an ordinary woman in her 30s. In fact, it was a copy of one.

To many people, Repliee is more than a humanoid robot--it is an honest-to-goodness android, so lifelike that it seems like a real person. Japan boasts the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, represented by Honda's Asimo and other bipedal machines. They are expected to eventually pitch in as the workforce shrinks amid the dwindling and aging population. But why build a robot with pigmented silicone skin, smooth gestures and even makeup? To Repliee's creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, the answer is simple: "Android science."

....To emulate human looks and behavior successfully, Ishi­guro yokes robotics with cognitive science. In turn, cognitive science research can use the robot as a test bed to study human perception, communication and other faculties. This novel cross-fertilization is what Ishiguro describes as android science. In a 2005 paper, he and his collaborators explained it thus: "To make the android humanlike, we must investigate human activity from the standpoint of [cognitive science, behavioral science and neuroscience], and to evaluate human activity, we need to implement processes that support it in the android."

One key strategy in Ishiguro's approach is to model robots on real people. He began research four years ago with his then four-year-old daughter, casting a rudimentary android from her body, but its few actuator mechanisms resulted in jerky, unnatural motion. With Tokyo-based robotics maker Kokoro Company, Ishiguro built Repliee also by "copying" a real person--NHK TV newscaster Ayako Fujii--with shape-memory silicone rubber and plaster molds. Polyurethane and a five-millimeter-thick silicone skin, soft and specially colored, cover a metal skeleton. Given clothing, a wig and lipstick, it is a near mirror image of Fujii.
Go to the Scientific American article for much more information about Repliee.

Japanese researchers seem to feel more strongly about achieving human-like appearance in their robots than most North American researchers. Korean researchers appear to share this same drive to imitate human mannerisms and features in their robot creations.

The Japanese have had a strong lead in industrial robotics for many years, and it is not surprising that they could carry this progress to the proto-field of human replacement androids.

There are two main problems that I see:
  1. Lack of self contained actuators and power supply.
  2. Inability to pass the Turing Test.
No one expects these androids to possess actual intelligence, but if they are going to be placed as receptionists and college professors, they will need a vocabulary of at least a thousand words. And any android that needs a refrigerator sized device to power pneumatic actuators for body movement, is not going to be able to occupy most office cubicles, due to space restraints.

Even so, research goes on. Research at the University of Texas Dallas campus, into artificial muscles, may solve problem 1, and improvements in chatterbot technology may solve problem 2. As for all of you horndogs who expect expensive androids to walk gracefully, speak intelligently, and satisfy your sexual needs as well, I can only suggest that you put yourself in your android's shoes for once, and imagine how it would feel to be so taken for granted.....Oh, please! Why did he have to get home early . . .

"No, no, Valerie, not again! I get home and find you back at the computer writing another Al Fin posting. What do I have to say to get you to sto


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