Japanese scientists unveiled what they claimed was the world's first news-reading android at a Tokyo museum on Tuesday, with the new robot guides appearing to be eerily human and possessing a sense of humor to match their shaky language skills, Agence France-Presse reported.
The adolescent-looking "Kodomoroid" -- an amalgamation of the Japanese word "kodomo" (child) and "android" -- delivered news of an earthquake and an FBI raid to excited reporters in Tokyo, as Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro said she will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.
The pitch-perfect Kodomoroid was flanked by a grown-up fellow robot, "Otonaroid" -- "otona" meaning adult, who acted a bit more uncertain than her counterpart, saying, "I'm a little bit nervous."
In an enthralling demonstration, both the remote-controlled machines, which have silicon skin and artificial muscles, moved their pink lips in time to a voice-over, twitched their eyebrows, blinked and swayed their heads from side to side, but remained seated. "Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human," Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, told reporters Tuesday, "examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking."
A variety of voices, such as a deep male voice one minute and a squeaky girly voice the next, have been designed for the robots, including the input of speech through text which helps them perform it with 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," the Associated Press reported. "But glitches are common with robots because they are delicate gadgetry sensitive to their environment."
The two life-size robots will begin interacting extensively with visitors to collect data for Ishiguro's studies into human reactions to the machines starting Wednesday at Miraikan museum, or the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, in Tokyo.
"We will have more and more robots in our lives in the future," Ishiguro told AFP.