Forget the high price of gas, rush hour traffic, and finding a parking space. Hiroshi Ishiguro, head of Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, can “robo-commute” to work. He has created a humanoid version of himself that he can control and speak through remotely.
“Everyone, thank you so much for coming today,” it says in polite but languid Japanese at an ATR demo Thursday, its lips moving to the sound. The voice is Ishiguro’s, broadcast through a speaker inside his android double.
Ishisguro also wants to see if the android can convey, through its complex micromovements and life-like appearance, a sense of human presence. In addition to being a technical experiment, the robot is also an experiment on human nature.
But why bother to build robots that look like humans? Ishiguro views machines as good vehicles to learn more about human nature. He combines engineering with cognitive science with the aim of making very humanlike robots, which can be used as test beds for theories about human perception, communication and cognition. He calls his approach “android science.”