Female Androids Hit Japan

Posted on July 28, 2005

The BBC reports that Japanese scientists are once again leaving the U.S. in the dust with their cool robot research. The new female android is the most human-looking robot ever invented. Her name is Repliee Q1, which isn't the catchiest name we've ever heard, but hey, they're scientists, not writers. Repliee has skin made of flexible silicone, as well as sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react like a human.
She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe. Professor Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University says one day robots could fool us into believing they are human. Repliee Q1 is not like any robot you will have seen before, at least outside of science-fiction movies. She is designed to look human and although she can only sit at present, she has 31 actuators in her upper body, powered by a nearby air compressor, programmed to allow her to move like a human.

"I have developed many robots before," Repliee Q1's designer, Professor Ishiguru, told the BBC News website, "but I soon realised the importance of its appearance. A human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence." "Repliee Q1 can interact with people. It can respond to people touching it. It's very satisfying, although we obviously have a long way to go yet."

Professor Ishiguru believes that it may prove possible to build an android that could pass for a human, if only for a brief period. "An android could get away with it for a short time, 5-10 seconds. However, if we carefully select the situation, we could extend that, to perhaps 10 minutes," he said. "More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman."
Except for those giant gorilla hands, she looks pretty human to us. We're reminded of that Star Trek original series episode where Kirk and the Enterprise crew found a brilliant scientist on another planet who turned out to have been Leonardo da Vinci and a bunch of other Earth geniuses. He built the perfect female android too, but she didn't love him. We hope things go better for Professor Ishiguru.