An idea whose time has come

typed for your pleasure on 10 April 2006, at 8.02 pm

Sdtrk: the main theme from ‘Get Carter’ by Roy Budd

Y’know how the first podcast series of The Ricky Gervais Show had ‘Monkey News’ as a regular feature? Well, lately, ‘Shouting etc etc’ has turned into ‘Synthetiks News’. I mean, moreso than usual.

Soon he’ll be in two places at once
February 1, 2006

Students of Hiroshi Ishiguro will struggle to tell their teacher from his robotic doppelganger, writes Deborah Smith.

TRAVELLING long distances to meetings and conferences will soon be a thing of the past for Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, the creator of the world’s most human-like robot – a female named Repliee Q2. Ishiguro, of Osaka University, is close to finishing an even more advanced robot – a male, this time – that will be a physical replica of himself.

“I will not need to come here again,” he told a conference in Sydney earlier this week. “I will send my android instead.”

The busy Japanese scientist expects his $500,000 lookalike will prove most valuable for avoiding the regular trips to see his research students at the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Kyoto, an hour’s drive away from his Osaka office.

Its lifelike presence will keep his researchers on their toes during teleconferences, he hopes. “If they feel my authority with my android there, it will be good,” he told the Herald.

Hollywood’s robotic creations usually have hard, metallic shells. But people prefer human-like machines with soft skin, Ishiguro says. “They don’t like to spend time with a robot-like robot.”
the rest of the article is here

This is exactly the sort of thing Andy Warhol was attempting to do. Even back during the Sixties, long before the concept of an Android double had crossed his mind, he had Factory hanger-on Alan Midgette do the lecture circuit thing dressed as Andy — black rollneck jumper, some talc liberally sprinkled in his hair, black shades, the lot. But this is even better. We have the technology.

So will the Android Ishiguro-san be allowed to eventually head new robotics projects? That would be very… meta. But entirely appropriate!

Technorati tags: Actroid, Repliee, Gynoid, Andy Warhol

10 have spoken to “An idea whose time has come”

  1. Jeff "Wolfgang" Lilly writes:

    Personally, I think this says less about the advance of robotics and more about this guy’s teaching style…

  2. Davecat writes:

    Ell oh ell, sir; ell oh ell. 🙂

  3. SafeTinspector writes:

    “Hollywood’s robotic creations usually have hard, metallic shells. But people prefer human-like machines with soft skin, Ishiguro says. ‘They don’t like to spend time with a robot-like robot.'”

    What of that principle you mentioned once upon a time where humans feel good interacting with either 100% convincing or 100% unconvincing robots, but get creeped out by the in-betweeners? Is this fellow ignoring that principle or does he believe he will acheive the positive terminus of the equation?

  4. Davecat writes:

    That phenomenon would be Masahiro Mori’s Uncanny valley. One of the quotes I particularly like in that entry is by David Hanson, another roboticist: ‘The idea of the Uncanny valley is really pseudoscientific, but people treat it like it is science.’ Keep in mind, too, that the theory was created back in the 70s — the technology wasn’t as advanced back then.

    Ishiguro is aware of the ‘theory’, but I guess you kinda have to be to know what you’re up against and to know how to address it. Some people think that Synthetiks like Actroid et al are ‘creepy’, because they ‘don’t look or move like humans’, but people don’t seem to realise that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The technology can only improve..

  5. Jeff "Wolfgang" Lilly writes:

    I’ve always wondered, though, if the “creepy” is because they don’t move like humans or because they do move like humans. Is it the deficit of naturalness or the surfeit that causes problems?

  6. SafeTinspector writes:

    Here’s what I attribute the “creepiness” that some people attribute to the not-quite-convincing synthetics. (I also apply this to CG characters that try very hard to look like real people. Like the ones in the first Final Fantasy movie or the Polar Express)

    Humans are really good at reading body language and are fairly good at determining if another human is being stealthy, agressive, sexy, etc.
    When we see something that looks like a human, but is moving in a manner that doesn’t match our internal catalog of human behaviour properly, many people find it disquieting.
    I think this is the same thing that makes us feel squeemish around the mentally ill. They aren’t, somehow, right.

    Do you think the answer is to get to the point where the anthropomorphic robot is completely convincing or get people acclimated to not-quite-human movements and actions?

    For a little bit, I entertained the notion that creating a set of behaviours that can be applied to various robots which can then become a new vocabulary of movement common to all synthetics would be an answer. We biologicals would then have a single collection of expectations to adopt and become comfortable with.

    But, really, by the time there was such a standard of movement patterns they certainly could have produced the originally sought after perfect human mimicry.

    ‘Course, you know how I feel about it, Davecat. I don’t feel a personal interest in having robots become anthropomorphic to that extent. We have humans for that. I’m more interested in robots that have form following function coupled with artificial intelligence such that they may be friends or partners to humans. Different strokes and all that, right?

  7. Dolly writes:

    This page is now linked from because of your doll fetish.

    Good news? bad news?

  8. Davecat writes:

    Actually, you bring up a valid solution with the whole ‘get people used to the inorganic movement that Synthetiks have’ idea, but you riposted your own theory with the next statement you’d made.
    I still believe it’s a good idea to get the populace used to the particular style of body language that Synthetiks exhibit, however, as it certainly couldn’t hurt. Humans have to make an effort to understand the body language of animals, so really, why not?

    True, humans already fill the anthropomorphic wedge, but not all humans can do all things for all people, and a substitute or a replacement is obviously better than nothing at all. Personally, I (as well as Ishiguro-san, obviously) would rather have a as-close-to-human-as-possible friend/partner/companion with which to interact. Between R2D2 and Actroid, I’m gonna go with Actroid every single time. Not just for physical sexiness, mind, but I’d feel more comfortable speaking to her, than something shaped like a renegade garbage can.

    And I’ve never had a problem with realistic CG character designs, so I can’t really relate. I quite liked the models for ‘Final fantasy: TSW’, I just found the story itself to be shite..

    Dolly –
    Having given a cursory look at the site, having not been linked would be good news.

    It’s a free Internet — I can’t control what people say. Unfortunately.

  9. SafeTinspector writes:

    DC: R2D2 would make a dandy automated cleaning assistant.

    I actually had a dream last night where I was yelling at R2D2 to hop OVER the damn step. (no lie! coincidence is a strange thing) He kept showing me how he could rock back and forth and hop straight up and down, but couldn’t hop over the threshold. I awoke frustrated.

  10. Davecat writes:

    Even Daleks can ascend steps nowadays. 🙂

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