Japanese robot scans printed copy, reads it out loud in a lifelike voice. But does it just widen uncanny valley?
Robotics scientists in Japan have recently unveiled a pair of humanoid robots, including one that delivers the news like a real newscaster in various languages.
Dubbed as the world’s first news-reading android, the Kodomoroid is an adolescent-looking robot that was created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of humanoid robotics at Osaka University. Kodomoroid gets its name from the Japanese word “kodomo,” which means child, and the word “android.”
The news-reading android was presented at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) with two other robots by Professor Ishiguro. Kodomoroid and an adult android called the Otonaroid appear human-like and are made with special silicone and artificial muscles that allow them to move almost like a real person. A third robot, the Telenoid, is the size of a baby and was designed without individual human physical features, but can interact with visitors. All three robots come with voices that are more human than robotic. The androids are part of an exhibition called ‘Androids – What is Human,’ which features the latest innovations in robotics.
The Kodomoroid and Otonaroid will be working at Miraikan as a news reader and announcer, and as a science communicator, respectively. Both of them will interact with visitors and have conversations with them, and allow the visitors to control them. The androids will be gathering data for Mr. Ishiguro’s research into human reactions to the robots. According to the professor, they will be able to provide feedback that will help scientists make them appear more human and clever.
During a press event for the robots the Kodomoroid and the Otonaroid interacted with some of the people present, including members of the press and Mr. Ishiguro himself. The Kodomoroid demonstrated its ability to deliver the news while the Otonaroid was welcomed by Miraikan curator Mamoru Mori as one of the museum’s science communicator.
The breakthrough development makes fresh use of emerging capabilities to bring data to life in new ways.