Interesting events take place these days at the Miraikan National Museum of Science and Innovation in Tokyo, androids have teamed up with humans to guide and entertain visitors of a new permanent exhibition opened this week, named “Android: What is human?”. Three androids, Kodomoroid, Otonaroid and Telenoid, created by a team of scientists at the Osaka University led by professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, have been “hired” to make announcements and interact with people visiting the museum.
The Kodomoroid and Otonaroid androids have been designed to resemble a young girl (kodomo – child) and a grown woman (otona – adult). Real human models have been used as references for designing these androids, casts have been made of real body parts of the models and a very human skin-like silicone was used to wrap the moldings mounted onto the robotic frames.
Both androids can be teleoperated, the Kodomoroid robot will have the task to announce news from the Internet, while the Otonaroid can be remotely controlled by people like an avatar of theirselves. The third robot, Telenoid, which has been around for some years and has been redesigned several times, is a minimally designed android which resembles a small child and, according to its creator it has a pleasant skin texture and can be hugged by anyone who wishes to do so.
Just like other creations of professor Ishiguro, like the Geminoid HI-1 clone of himself android or the Geminoid F female android, one might experience strong uncanny valley feelings when around these robots, they look very human but not quite. Professor Ishiguro says that he designed these androids as an experiment to study human reactions around such robots.
“Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human, […] examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking.”
— Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro
These robots cannot walk, they are designed to be operated only in seated positions. Aided by compressed air “muscles” they can however move their upper bodies, heads and arms, and can represent various facial expressions while lip-syncing speech recordings.
The androids will be “colleagues” with Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot, which joined the Miraikan Museum last year to perform autonomous demonstrations of interactivity and communication with visitors.