After yesterday’s story about the politician who’s accusing his victorious opponent of being a robot lookalike, I’m tempted to write nothing but robot doppleganger posts for at least a week. But then people would probably start to suspect that I’m a robot, and proving that one isn’t a robot can be challenging. So I won’t do it, but I am starting the week with a post about robot newscasters. Because if there’s one area of the media that humans aren’t particularly well suited for, it’s delivering information about what’s going on in the world.
Kodomoroid delivered a newscast in Toyko on Tuesday, in advance of joining Toyko’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Created by Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, Kodomoroid and Otonaroid are remote-controlled humanoid robots who can talk, display appropriate facial expressions and movements, and who can interact with humans. They have artificial muscles and skin made of silicone. The robots can’t get up and walk around — they remain seated, which likely helps reduce the fear factor, but they can move their hands. They can also change their voices, in case one wants to experience the cognitive dissonance of seeing a demure female robot speaking like a male wrestler. Their vocal articulation is pretty flawless, or so say people who actually can understand the Japanese they’re speaking, because it’s text-input.
In Tuesday’s demonstration, the robots performed well, though there were a couple of snags, like lack of synchronization between lip movement and speech, or the Otonaroid robot not introducing itself a couple of times when asked. The two humanoid robots were joined by a particularly strange-looking bot called Telenoid, which is basically a mannequin head on a small body and which Ishiguro says he created because he wanted a child robot to announce the news. I mean, who doesn’t?
The androids are now acting as guides at the museum. Otonaroid is a science communicator who will interact with visitors, providing explanations and information related to the exhibits. Kodomoroid will continue delivering the world’s news.
Ishiguro believes that robots will continue to become more integrated into human culture, and he also strives to fight against the uncanny valley complex, the creep factor that results from humanoid robots too closely resembling humans. Ishiguro eventually wants to create robots that can interact with humans not just intellectually, but emotionally. He wants to explore self-awareness and independent thought when it comes to robots, and seems far more excited than threatened by the possibility.