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Robot museum guides appear human in Japan

Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, says life-size androids will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.
By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press Published: June 25, 2014
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— The new robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people — almost.

Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, says they will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.

“Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human,” he told reporters Tuesday, “examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking.”

In a demonstration, the remote-controlled machines moved their pink lips in time to a voice-over, twitched their eyebrows, blinked and swayed their heads from side to side. They stay seated but can move their hands.

In a clear triumph, Kodomoroid read the news without stumbling once and recited complex tongue-twisters glibly.

The robot, designed with a girlish appearance, can use a variety of voices, such as a deep male voice one minute and a squeaky girly voice the next. The speech can be input by text, giving them perfect articulation, according to Ishiguro.

There were some glitches — such as the lips not moving at all while the robot spoke, or the Otonaroid announcer robot staying silent twice when asked to introduce itself.

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