[Paleopsych] BBC: Japanese develop 'female' android

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Thu Jul 28 21:46:59 UTC 2005

Japanese develop 'female' android
Published: 2005/07/27 09:10:07 GMT

     By David Whitehouse
     Science editor, BBC News website

     Japanese scientists have unveiled the most human-looking robot yet
     devised - a "female" android called Repliee Q1.

     She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a
     number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a
     human-like manner.

     She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even
     appears to breathe.

     Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University says one day robots
     could fool us into believing they are human.

     Repliee Q1 is not like any robot you will have seen before, at least
     outside of science-fiction movies.

     She is designed to look human and although she can only sit at
     present, she has 31 actuators in her upper body, powered by a nearby
     air compressor, programmed to allow her to move like a human.

     We have found that people forget she is an android while interacting
     with her
     Prof Hiroshi Ishiguro

     "I have developed many robots before," Repliee Q1's designer,
     Professor Ishiguro, told the BBC News website, "but I soon realised
     the importance of its appearance. A human-like appearance gives a
     robot a strong feeling of presence."

     Designed to look human

     Before Repliee Q1, Professor Ishiguro developed Repliee R1 which had
     the appearance of a five-year-old Japanese girl.

     Its head could move in nine directions and it could gesture with its
     arm. Four high-sensitivity tactile sensors were placed under the skin
     of its left arm that made the android react differently to differing

     The follow-up has the appearance of a Japanese woman. To program her
     motion, a computer analysed the motions of a human and used them as a
     template for the way Repliee Q1 moves.

     She can be designed to follow the movement of a human wearing motion
     sensors or to act independently.

     "Repliee Q1 can interact with people. It can respond to people
     touching it. It's very satisfying, although we obviously have a long
     way to go yet."

     Professor Ishiguro believes that it may prove possible to build an
     android that could pass for a human, if only for a brief period.

     "An android could get away with it for a short time, 5-10 seconds.
     However, if we carefully select the situation, we could extend that,
     to perhaps 10 minutes," he said.

     "More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android
     while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is
     an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were
     a woman."

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