Eerily lifelike androids join staff at Tokyo tech museum

These lifelike robots are meant to provoke existential questions

Robots Kodomoroid (left) and Otonaroid were shown off Tuesday in Tokyo, where the androids got "jobs" at a technology museum.

Robots Kodomoroid (left) and Otonaroid were shown off Tuesday in Tokyo, where the androids got "jobs" at a technology museum.

They might not be your idea of the ideal museum guide, but two androids designed to be lifelike have landed "jobs" at a prestigious Japanese technology center.

Named Kodomoroid and Otonaroid, the droids are designed as hyper-realistic androids that look like a girl and a woman, respectively.

At a press event, former astronaut Mamoru Mohri, director of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo, presented Otonaroid with its official credentials.

Otonaroid accepted the paper, awkwardly grasping it with its fingers coated with synthetic skin. The robot's business card, which bears the title "science communicator," was handed out to reporters. It chatted with attendees after Kodomoroid announced the latest earthquake news.

Powered by compressed air and servomotors, the androids can be remote controlled but they cannot 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 when the machines go on display from Wednesday. Otonaroid can be controlled by visitors so they can experience what it's like to have a robot surrogate.

A third droid being put on display at the Miraikan is Telenoid, a toddler-sized, remote-controlled humanoid that was first shown off in 2010 as a way to convey emotions through a machine surrogate. Lacking the realism of Kodomoroid and Otonaroid, its pale body has been compared, unfavorably, to an overgrown fetus.

They're the handiwork of a team led by Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) roboticist who has been creating extremely lifelike androids for years. He's known for creating an android "clone" called Geminoid that is the spitting image of himself.

"Until now, you could only see androids in research labs, so having them as permanent museum exhibits is an advance," Ishiguro said at the press event. "Their hands move and their faces have move natural expressions."

A kind of "Pinocchio" moment occurred when Kodomoroid asked Ishiguro why he had created it. He responded that he wanted to create a child news announcer.

Ishiguro and Mohri conceded that the technology still has plenty of kinks, as seen in a hiccup during the event when Otonaroid failed to respond when it was asked to introduce itself.

The machines join Japan's most famous humanoid, Honda's Asimo, among the robot exhibits at the museum and are meant to anticipate a time when androids are so lifelike that humans may have difficulty distinguishing them, a scenario raised in the classic science fiction film "Blade Runner." They're experiments designed to provoke questions about what it means to be human.

"I hope these new science communicators can help increase the numbers of return visitors to the museum," Mohri said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags robotics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?