Human or humanoid? Tokyo museum hires new "guides"

IDG News Service | Jun 23, 2014

The robots meant to anticipate a time when androids are so lifelike that humans may have difficulty distinguishing them. Follow reporter Nick Barber on Twitter @nickjb

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If you look quick you might think these two women on stage are human, but they're not. They're humanoid robots that are working as guides at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. Here Otonaroid is accepting its official credentials. The robot's business card bears the title of science communicator and was handed out to journalists at the event. Powered by compressed air and servomotors, the robots can be remote controlled, but they're stuck sitting as they can't walk around.
They can move their upper bodies, arms, fingers and heads and also show a range of facial expressions while lip-synching prerecorded speech.
Kodomoroid is linked to the Internet and will read out the latest news, while Otonaroid can be controlled by visitors.

A third, somewhat less attractive droid is also on display. Called Telenoid, the remote controlled toddler sized robot was first shown in 2010.

The robots are the handiwork of a team lead by Hiroshi Ishiguro an Osaka University and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International roboticist.

The machines join Japan's most famous humanoid, Honda's Asimo, among the robot exhibits at the museum. They're meant to anticipate a time when androids are so lifelike that humans may have difficulty distinguishing them from their human counterparts.

With reporting by Tim Hornyak in Tokyo, I'm Nick Barber, IDG News Service.