Once you’ve creeped people out by building an Android replica of yourself, there’s only one way to up the eeriness ante: build a female version.
That’s what Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University, has done. He’s already known for creating the Geminoid HI-1, a robot built to closely replicate his own appearance. It’s even controlled by Ishiguro’s own movements, meaning interacting with it is about as close to speaking to Ishiguro himself as it gets:
The android is designed not just to show off the technology, but to explore questions about the way humans and robots interact and the psychological effects involved.
Now Ishiguro wants to turn his work into more of a commercial operation and, as is common with many businesses, he’s going for visual appeal. The idea of his latest creation is to produce a more attractive, engaging android, which he’s done in the form of a young woman:
Fortunately for Ishiguro, he’s not had to resort to less savory methods to market the new android, Geminoid F. Instead, the $110,000 robot is designed for use in situations such as hospitals where it apparently gives patients “psychological security” via comforting smiles while patients are being examined.
Appearance aside, the main technical changes with this edition are that it uses just 12 actuators, the devices which control movement in the robot, compared with 46 in the original. It also has the air valves, which power some of the movements, built inside the body, leaving just a small compressor on the outside, unlike the original which required a bulky external box.
Ishiguro is keeping the identity of the human model used to create the new android under wraps, for understandable confidentiality reasons . He did note that he’d intentionally selected a model who was one-quarter non-Japanese to achieve a blend of appealing to both Japanese and international audiences.
Another goal, both in the selection of the model and the design of the android, was to specifically allow for a “toothy smile”, apparently as this seems more naturalistic.
[Picture credit: AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno]