Hoorej for Synthetiks

typed for your pleasure on 5 October 2006, at 5.01 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Perdoa’ by Vanusa

So I’m sure by now everyone and their gran knows about Actroid-chan’s appearance at the Wired Nextfest, right? Yes, yes. But then, Pink Tentacle mentions today that a new, improved version has been assembled. Sweet slow-roasted christ, she’s even cuter the previous model, if that’s even physically possible.

‘No, I was never in Morning musume, although they did ask me once’

Actroid DER2 fembot loves Hello Kitty
, a Sanrio Group company specializing in the design and manufacture of robots, unveiled its new Actroid DER2 feminine guide robot at Sanrio headquarters in Tokyo on October 4.

Actroid DER2 is an upgraded version of Kokoro’s previous fembot, Actroid DER, who has made quite a name for herself by providing services at a number of events, including the 2005 World Expo. Compared to the previous model, DER2 has thinner arms and a wider repertoire of expressions. The smoothness of her movement has also been improved, making it now even more likely for the uninitiated to confuse her with an actual human being. (emphasis mine)

Actroid’s limbs, torso and facial expressions are controlled by a system of actuators powered by pneumatic pressure. Once programmed, she is able to choreograph her motions and gestures with her voice.

Kokoro intends to rent Actroid DER2 to companies and events. The basic rental fee is expected to be 400,000 yen (US $3,500) for 5 days, plus extra fees for technical support, delivery and choreography changes. For those who can’t cope with a sayonara after 5 days, there is a late fee of 80,000 yen per day.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

That statement I’d emphasised is extraordinarily encouraging — her movements are even closer to Organiks. That’s the benefits of an upgrade for you. Will we actually see Androids and Gynoids in society within the next decade or two? I’d say ‘I certainly hope so,’ but you’d expect me to say that. In the interim, MUST. FIND. VIDEOS. NOW.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go register myself as a company, and scrape up $3500. I’ve, err, gotta buy some gum, you see — I like to stock up

ADDENDUM (9.14pm): Pics and video clips found, courtesy of Robot Watch. My goodness, she’s definitely got Cuteness Appeal, no question

Technorati tags: Actroid, Repliee, Gynoid, Android, Wired Nextfest, Sanrio

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typed for your pleasure on 19 September 2006, at 8.05 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Never understand’ by the Jesus and Mary Chain

Stumbled across this encouraging article on a new blog called The Fembot Chronicle, which in turn got it from Pink Tentacle, which in turn obtained it from the Yomiuri shimbun. That’s a lot of turning.

Robot beauty goes skin-deep

In a move that could provide a crucial boost to our robotic friends struggling up the near side of the Uncanny Valley, major cosmetics manufacturer Kao Corporation and a Keio University research team led by robotics professor Takashi Maeno have developed an artificial skin that feels just like human skin.

Skin, the largest organ of the human body, consists of a soft layer of tissue (dermis) covered by a tougher protective layer (epidermis). The artificial skin developed by Kao and Keio mimics the feel of human skin with a 1-cm thick “dermis” of elastic silicone covered by a 0.2-mm thick “epidermis” of firm urethane. Countless tiny hexagonal indentations etched into the urethane epidermis provide it with a very realistic texture.

In a series of unscientific tests, 10 out of 12 people who touched the skin thought it felt like human skin, while equipment designed to measure the mechanical properties of skin confirmed the artificial skin had characteristics resembling human skin.

The skin was unveiled earlier this month at the 24th Annual Conference of the Robotics Society of Japan (RSJ) at Okayama University. While Kao plans to use the artificial skin in the development of new cosmetics, Professor Maeno sees potential applications in the field of household robotics, where there are many opportunities for human-robot interaction.

[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

Once again, Japan’s making impressive strides towards actual Synthetiks in society. Well done, Keio University team members!

By the way, the site where I found the illo used above would be ALIEN1452; if you’d like the NSFW scintillating full-sized version, you can clicky here, as it’s well worth it

Technorati tags: Android, Gynoid, Keio University, Kao Corporation, artificial skin

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What Would Loki Do?, Part I

typed for your pleasure on 30 August 2006, at 3.40 pm

Sdtrk: ‘I found the F’ by Broadcast

As previously mentioned, Sidore-chan and I had been requisitioned for yet another television interview; this time airing on a show called ‘Outsiders’ on Titan Television, for the good people of Sweden. It was Three Days of Driving, Flying and Sweating!

By the time I reached Northwest terminal A8 at Detroit’s Metropolitan airport, I was already sweating like a New York waiter. It was partially due to all that bloody walking from one end of the fecking airport to the other, but it seemed to set a ridiculously moist and annoying precedent for the whole week-end.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning!

As my flight was due to take off at 7.26pm, I had gotten round to my friend Tsukihime’s at 5pm; she lives about 15min away from Metro airport, and was gracious enough to let me leave my car there, and drive me to Metro. Lovely lass; wouldn’t hear a word against her.
Now, since Jan, they’d been revamping the airport (probably before then, actually), and as I love airports, I was perfectly happy with waiting round for a couple of hours. However, the airport I had known through my youth was long gone. It was bigger, and completely stripped of the wood panelling I enjoyed so much. I’m led to believe that with the fact that Detroit was host to the XXXIII Superblow at the head of this year, they wanted to undoubtedly bring the appearance of Metro kicking and screaming out of 1971. So as a consequence, the airport, or at least McNamara Terminal, is now vast and enormous. It has a tram system and moving walkways, but it looks like a bloody mall. There’s a Japanese cuisine on the concourse, along with a Quizno’s, but it’s not as intimate and close as the Metro that I’d always known. My best friend Sean and I would periodically meet with a friend of ours named Tammy, who lived behind Metro airport, and we would waste hours of our Saturdays there. One time, when we’d brought Monti along, the four of us managed to persuade a luggage porter to ride us around a couple of terminals on one of those motorised yellow carts, which was beyond ace. Plus, we managed to get the whole adventure on videotape! Good times, good times.
But yeah! Metro’s too bloody big now. But at least they have a tram. Which I definitely would’ve used had I known it existed, as I had to walk from the security area, all the way to the end of one of the wings. Try doing that in steel-toed boots, matey. Not a good idea.

Speaking of the security area, due to the recent bollocks over in England, now liquids and gels are verboten on flights. Bloody ridiculous. The security attendant made me abandon my aerosol deodorant as well as my toothpaste! I have to agree with (justifiably) cranky Harry Hutton — the real terrorists are the people who thought to ban things like nail clippers, toothpaste, and juice boxes. I thought they were gonna give me stick about my wrist belts, which I usually have to hide whenever I cross the border into Canada, not to mention my beloved steel-toed German tank boots, but they passed through without incident. Huh?
It’s a rather lengthy and idiotic process. Anything questionable or metallic on your person, including shoes of all sorts, you had to strip off, place in a deep tray, and slide it through the X-ray machine. They don’t do the wanding thing anymore, as that would probably slow down the process even further. They then pick through your luggage if need be — which is what happened to me, so I had some security lass rustling through my underwear — and then, after you’re not established as being a threat, they hand you back your stuff, and it takes you five minutes to get dressed again. Really; what price security?

My plane — a Northwest Airlines mid-sized jet — would have taken off on schedule, but due to runway delays, we didn’t actually leave until about 8pm. Upon reflection, I should’ve checked my seating (one of the people over at Titan television had booked it), as I would’ve preferred a window seat, but was instead sat in the middle; some suedehead was in the window seat, reading a book in French. Really, though, the being in the air part of the flight itself went without a hitch, which only reminded me of how ace air travel in general really is. Apart from the tag team of loud infants, of course. I had thought — no, hoped — that a new development of air travel would be to stow all children under the age of, say, eight, in a soundproofed lower berth of the aircraft. Or, at the very least, ship them like luggage, where they’d be waiting on the carousel at your destination. I consider myself a forward thinker.
I have to note, that at one point, the little beast that was a couple of seats behind me was screaming ‘TAKE IT AWAY! TAKE IT AWAAAYY!!’ for some godforsaken reason. It was as if I were listening to Nine inch nails..

Having arrived safely at Los Angeles Airport after a four hour and fifty-eight minute flight, I wandered round Terminal 2 for a male and female couple who looked as if they were descended from Vikings. Now, one of the things I was looking forward to is that Sofia (the person at Titan television orchestrating this whole venture) had told me that the film crew of Anna and Clas would be waiting for me at the terminal, holding a sign with ‘Davecat’ written on it, which I was ecstatic about, as I’ve never had anyone do that for me in my entire life. If only! Instead, they were an hour late, due to navigating LA’s labyrinthine roads. It can’t be held entirely against them, as LA’s motorways have reduced lesser men to shuddering, sobbing heaps.
So my interrogators from Sverige consisted of interviewer Anna Jillhed, a blonde (duh, Sweden) lass with a habit of indulging in smokeless tobacco, and cameraman Clas Elofsson, a former IKEA driver (duh, Sweden) who looked facially a wee bit like fellow iDollator Everhard, but with a rounder head. We exchanged pleasantries, piled into their rental car, and took off for our Comfort Inn in Escondido.
Interesting to note: According to Google Maps, the distance between these two locations is one hour, forty seven minutes. For some bizarre fantastical reason, it took us just under three hours to get there. Oddly enough, I believe we passed two additional airports on the way to the hotel. ‘Why didn’t they fly into San Diego Airport, just south of San Marcos?’, you axe? Well, apparently Anna & Clas were shooting a previous article in El Lay a couple of days before I’d arrived; also, as San Diego isn’t as big as LAX, there would’ve been layovers. But why was the drive longer than it should’ve been? Fuck if I know.

After making a detour to find a 7-11, so I could purchase some toothpaste and deodorant *shaking head*, we pulled into the Comfort Inn, were given our room keys, and sloped off to our rooms, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2am PST. Of course, as far as my body was concerned, it was 5am EST. Egad.

During the few minutes I had before tumbling headlong into sleep, I was trying to suss just what was up with the Swedes, as they were kinda rubbing me the wrong way. With every film/tv crew that I’ve previously dealt with, they had made an effort to do their homework on me and the concept of Synthetiks; or, at the very least, ask a passel of questions about those subjects during any time we had between filming; like, say, a 2+ hour drive, for instance. Did they have any questions? Not a one. Furthermore, whenever I brought up the topic of Dolls, they seemed largely uninterested. With Elisabeth, Elena and Allison’s crews, I’d really lucked out, as they genuinely found the subject fascinating, and as such, were fun to talk to, and a pleasure to work with. The vibe I got from Anna & Clas was ‘ehh, it’s a job; let’s do this and get it overwith’. For fuck’s sake, people, if you don’t actually give a toss, fake it. At the very least, it would make me feel better.
On top of that, they spent a good chunk of the drive, and indeed, their whole visit, speaking to each other in Swedish. Yes yes, I know that’s their native tongue, but it’s a little.. non-inclusive. That’s the sort of behaviour you engage in when I’m not around, not when you’re trying to buddy up to the subject of your filming. Given their apparent disinterest, how was I to know they weren’t talking about me?
And when they weren’t doing that, they were busy flirting with each other. Heh. But more on that later.

Needless to say, I didn’t exactly hit the sack in the highest of spirits. Well, there was being at Abyss tomorrow to look forward to, at least..


Technorati tags: Davecat, Sidore, RealDoll, iDollator, Abyss Creations, Titan Television

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Rong Cheng? More like RIGHT Cheng!*

typed for your pleasure on 9 August 2006, at 7.19 pm

Sdtrk: ‘What goes on’ by the Velvet underground

I didn’t expect China to throw their hat into the Gynoid production ring, but as the Little Caesar’s telly advert once used to say, ‘Anything’s possible. I taught my dog to say “I love you”‘.’

She’s addressed by ‘Miss’. That means she’s single. Hmm

Scientists unveil female robot
Reuters | August 09, 2006, 17:30

A group of Chinese scientists completed their work last week on a new robot named Miss Rong Cheng. The robot’s designers say she is equipped with cutting-edge technology in human-to-robot interaction and responds to human voices.

The robot is designed to look like a woman and it is programmed to speak Mandarin as well as a Sichuan dialect because she will be sent to the Sichuan Science Museum in Chengdu to act as a receptionist and tour guide.

“Our institute has been making great efforts in developing voice recognition system for many years … Meanwhile, the voice recognition function can make the communication between humans and robots more natural and personal, which highlights the progress we have achieved in making our robots more human-like”, Yue Hongqiang, the robot’s designer, said.

Robot to be sold to hotels, entertainment outlets
The cost of this project is $37 500 and besides dancing and greeting, the 168cm, 60kg “beauty” responds to 500 to 1 000 commands in Mandarin. It took around a year for the scientists to finish this first human simulation robot in China.

The designers hope to sell the robots next year to customers such as hotels and entertainment outlets. The most advanced robot in the world is sleek-looking Asimo, produced by Japanese auto-maker Honda. Asimo, who can walk at a speed of one mile per hour and climb up and down stairs, costs roughly $1 million.

As she lacks the smooth artificial skin of my lovely little Actroid-chan, or even EveR-1, she’s not as, well, sexy, but nevertheless, she’s an autonomous Synthetik, and that’s Good. In fact, her more robot-like appearance might provide a good bridge from automata that are non-humanoid, to Synthetiks that are more like Actroid et al.
Keep up the good work, Miss Rong Cheng! But please go find some better clothes. What, are you headed for a can-can circa 1986 or something?

The call goes out for videos of her in action! YouTube and Flash-based videos like this one don’t really count, as I want something I can save to my hard drive, so if any of you fine people run across any, do let me know

*I must, at this point, apologise for the hideous Subj.title, but it could’ve been worse, and been based around Wang Chung. Nevertheless, I’m so very very sorry

Technorati tags: Rong Cheng, Actroid, EveR-1, Android, Gynoid, robot

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The fact that I wasn’t told about this is a tragedy

typed for your pleasure on 2 August 2006, at 7.25 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Broke my neck (Long version)’ by Echo and the Bunnymen

Right; someone needs to buy me a plane ticket and fly me out to this event right fucking now.

Obligatory photo of Ando-san, but you expected that

Once, Twice, Three Times an Android
New Gallery Exhibition Showcases Robot Women, Electronic Eves

Queens, N.Y. – Lara Croft, the Japanese robot Repliee Q2, and the Stepford Wives are a few of the artificial women pictured in Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves, a new gallery exhibition opening June 17 at the New York Hall of Science.

Exploring artists’, filmmakers’, and photographers’ long-time fascination with images of artificial women that seem alive, Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves contains large images of female robots, androids, automatons, dolls, mannequins, and other artificial women. These include images from films, photography, intermedia art, animation, and video ranging from early automatons to the life-like female androids in today’s video and computer games.

The exhibit is curated by State University of New York, Maritime College Professor Julie Wosk, author of Women and the Machine: Representations From the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age and Breaking Frame: Technology and the Visual Arts in the Nineteenth Century.

Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves will be on view in the Walter O. LeCroy Gallery through September 10.

Why do I never learn about these things in time?? That exhibit had better be touring, and it had better stop in Michigan

Technorati tags: Android, Gynoid, Actroid, Repliee

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EveR-1’s next goal: hosting a chat show

typed for your pleasure on 23 June 2006, at 3.53 pm

Sdtrk: ‘La fille d’un garçon’ by France Gall

Damn, Korea, you are upping the ante pretty quickly. Well done!

She’s about to do that ‘I’m crushing your
head’ sketch from Kids in the Hall again

Female Android to Chair Info-Tech Fair
By Kim Tae-gyu, Staff Reporter
The Korea Times, 20 July 2006A female android will chair the opening ceremony of the SEK 2006, Korea’s biggest info-tech exhibition that begins a four-day run at COEX in southern Seoul Wednesday.

The life-like android, named EveR-1, was developed by a research team at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and went public early last month.

EveR-1 is poised to introduce notable participants at today’s SEK ceremony before delivering an oral presentation on the annual fair,’’ said Baeg Moon-hong, a senior researcher at the state-sponsored institute.

“We are happy to show off our own android the advanced IT fair. We aim to make efforts to develop the robot to be more like humans,’’ Baeg said.
the complete article is here

In effect, she’s only really doing what the Robot Station emcee version of Actroid-chan did at last year’s Aichi Expo, only seated and not in that delicious race queen outfit. Nevertheless, this is still very fab.
Okay Osaka Labs / Kokoro co. Ltd., what will you do to block? I suggest getting Ando-san a dedicated job as a newscaster, for starters..

Speaking of Kokoro, they’ve redesigned their website, and if you’ll note beneath the logo in the top left corner, it says, ‘a company of Sanrio Group’. Robots + Cute = one facet of the Japanese zeitgeist! It all makes sense now! *nods sagely*

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‘More human than human’, after a fashion

typed for your pleasure on 21 June 2006, at 8.43 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Message from home’ by Broadcast

You get Two Bonus Anecdotes along with this post; one now, and one at the end.
A long long time ago, in a highschool far, far away, Monti and I would periodically work on a script for a science-fiction-flavoured action film entitled ‘Give me fifteen dollars’. Don’t ask me about the title now — there’s a long story behind it, and I’m trying to rein in my tangents, here. Anyway, one of the main characters was Blitz, a Gynoid that was a part-time assassin and a part-time office worker, played by Monti. Would it surprise you to learn that I came up with that character? In one scene, Blitz is with her two friends, and she’s reading a book, and laughing uproariously. They ask her what’s so funny, and she holds up the book, which is by Isaac Asimov, and she replies, ‘”The Three Laws of Robotics”?? What bullshit!!’

No sex please, robot, just clean the floor
Ed Habershon and Richard Woods
The Sunday Times, June 18, 2006

THE race is on to keep humans one step ahead of robots: an international team of scientists and academics is to publish a “code of ethics” for machines as they become more and more sophisticated.

Although the nightmare vision of a Terminator world controlled by machines may seem fanciful, scientists believe the boundaries for human-robot interaction must be set now — before super-intelligent robots develop beyond our control.

“There are two levels of priority,” said Gianmarco Verruggio, a roboticist at the Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation in Genoa, northern Italy, and chief architect of the guide, to be published next month. “We have to manage the ethics of the scientists making the robots and the artificial ethics inside the robots.”
the complete article is here

An article like this is both encouraging and disheartening. The positive side I see is that technology is progressing along at a fair enough rate, where there’s actually a need to consider that genuine Synthetiks might well exist within the next couple of decades. Of course, you can always factor in that technological progress always seems to be accelerating — it took less time for humanity to get from automobile to Segway, than from wheel to automobile, for instance, so it might even be less than twenty odd years. The negative side would of course be this whole paranoia-driven jumping the gun mentality of ‘well, we’re gonna be dealing with semi-sentient lifeforms pretty soon, so we need to start keeping very strict tabs on them before they start a Robot Apocalypse’. Sure, if we can simulate a lifeform that can think like Organiks do, then obviously there’ll be a need to implement a sense of Right and Wrong in their operating systems. But the line ‘ensuring human control of robots’ kinda rings of slavery to me. There’s a vast and nebulous grey area that comes with this concept, and like I’d said, it’s ace that they’re giving this some thought right now, but I can only hope that the members of Euron and other similar AI ethics groups have their own morals and ethics in order, before saddling them onto brand-new lifeforms.
Didn’t veach once ask a cluster of questions related to this topic? Yes, yes he did. I still have to get round to finishing those..

The other tale: I had taken fencing for a semester back in 1990, which was one of the few classes I enjoyed, as I got a B+ out of it. One of my classmates was this bloke by the name of Brian. We never hung out at all outside of class, so it was a surprise to run into him again in a parking lot in Ferndale several years later. We chatted for a few minutes — about what, I can’t recall — but we touched upon the topic of career study fields. From completely out of the blue, he said, ‘I think you’d be good at something like building robots or Androids.’ Keep in mind, that startled/pleased me twice as much as normal, cos he didn’t know of my slavering lust for fascination with Synthetiks. But the very next sentence out of his mouth was, ‘Although I think you should probably take a few ethics classes beforehand.’
I laughed like a drain

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