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Woman or machine? New robots look creepily human


By YURI KAGEYAMA

TOKYO (AP) -- The new robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people - almost.

Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, says they will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.

"Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human," he told reporters Tuesday, "examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking."

In a demonstration, the remote-controlled machines moved their pink lips in time to a voice-over, twitched their eyebrows, blinked and swayed their heads from side to side. They stay seated but can move their hands.

In a clear triumph, Kodomoroid read the news without stumbling once and recited complex tongue-twisters glibly.

The robot, designed with a girlish appearance, can use a variety of voices, such as a deep male voice one minute and a squeaky girly voice the next. The speech can be input by text, giving them perfect articulation, according to Ishiguro.

There were some glitches - such as the lips not moving at all while the robot spoke, or the Otonaroid announcer robot staying silent twice when asked to introduce itself.

But glitches are common with robots because they are delicate gadgetry sensitive to their environment.

Kodomoroid and the woman robot Otonaroid were joined at the demonstration by the minimally designed Telenoid, a mannequin head with pointed arms that serves as a cuddly companion.

The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin and artificial muscles, will be on display starting Wednesday, at Miraikan museum, or the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, in Tokyo, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

Reflecting widespread opinion, Ishiguro said Japan leads the world in playful companion robots. But he acknowledged the nation was behind the U.S. in military robots.

Developing robots for more than 20 years, Ishiguro has made a point of creating robots that approximate the human appearance, including creatures that look like him. He has sent them to give overseas lectures.

His approach differs from some robotics scientists who say human appearance is pointless, perhaps creepy, and robots can look like machines, such as taking the form of a TV screen or a portable device.

Ishiguro noted proudly how Japanese Internet company Softbank Corp. recently showed a robot named Pepper, which looks a little like C-3PO in "Star Wars," and will sell for less than 200,000 yen ($2,000).

Pepper's arrival means robots are increasingly becoming part of everyday life in Japan.

"Robots are now becoming affordable - no different from owning a laptop," said Ishiguro.

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Fed Up June 24 2014 at 6:40 PM

"Creepily human" Like GOP congressmen.

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2 replies
coopdabomb Fed Up June 25 2014 at 5:46 AM

Looks like Pelosi to me

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kent_hern Fed Up June 25 2014 at 8:05 AM

Explains Romney for sure.

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combatpainter June 24 2014 at 5:49 PM

I want one! Please!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Maria Stars June 24 2014 at 9:11 PM

Absolutely awesome! Not in the slightest bit creepy in my opinion!

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1 reply
buddyboygabe Maria Stars June 24 2014 at 10:43 PM

all it need is, "Lube job" every now than, don't needs a "face left, tummy tuck, expansive clothes, food", etc.etc.

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1 reply
Hello Gorgeous buddyboygabe June 25 2014 at 4:54 AM

You're an idiot buddyboy!

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adjrk31697 June 24 2014 at 10:05 PM

Creepily ? Eerily maybe. Anybody pay attention to using proper words anymore or are we all to dependent on computers to know the difference?

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1 reply
abourge458 adjrk31697 June 24 2014 at 11:01 PM

Why is it that nine times out of ten, when someone whines about an AOL story's grammar or spelling they do it while messing up themselves.
"to dependant on computers" ?? How about "Too dependant".

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3 replies
buddyboygabe June 24 2014 at 10:38 PM

for some, you don't need a nagging spouse any longer!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
YourFtr June 24 2014 at 11:05 PM

Democrats will say the Robots are
"Natural-Born Citizens" since they were 'made' in the US; so they can run for the Presidency !?

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1 reply
coopdabomb YourFtr June 25 2014 at 5:49 AM

They come with a voter I.D. card, obama phone and welfare care right from the factory

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Joi June 25 2014 at 3:41 AM

I'm on here late again but have to say I'd love about 5 of these to wash my walls/ceilings, put new coats of paint on all, wash and caulk all the windows in this house, fix the old guttering on the back of house, put up new guttering on the horse stable, vacuum/wash all floors in this house (have cats, allergic to them), clean cat peeboxes twice a day, clean up barfed cat hairballs, take dog out for walks, clean up her poop outside, pick up daily horse manure, fill water buckets, feed all critters twice a day, fill waterbowls, dish out treats, do the stores for human, horse, cat, dog food, cut the grass around the house and in the large front, side, and mini-forest pastures to keep weeds from growing 10-ft. tall, get hay and stack it in hay barn, wash/dry clothes, fold all, put others on hangers, put into closets, and did I forget anything here? I've done all, it's past time for a break. Oh, wash my vehicles and take to Shop when needed. I do need a long rest, believe me.

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stengernc June 24 2014 at 9:26 PM

The biggest threat to jobs is the robot revolution. Computers and now robots are replacing jobs faster than they are creating them which if it continues will create a welfare state and then create economic collapse.

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1 reply
coopdabomb stengernc June 25 2014 at 5:48 AM

Osama obama has taken care of the economic collapse already

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coopdabomb June 25 2014 at 5:51 AM

These have been around for years. I married one.

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abourge458 June 24 2014 at 8:59 PM

I had a CD player installed in mine, but... It refuses to play anything but "Metal" .
Dang! $3900 and it's just as stubborn as my girlfriend.

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