Apr
05
2010

Pretty Japanese robot smiles, laughs, feels nothing

This is not Geminiod-F: But I don't consider it to be all that different.Courtesy law_kevenWelcome back to the uncanny valley, y’all. And guess who brought us here (once again.) That’s right: Japanese robotics companies.
You might recall the dental-torture simulator, the Simroid, that was mentioned in this post from last year. Apparently the robotics world was undeterred by our somewhat lukewarm reception of the grimacing, squealing, gape-mouthed Simroid, and it has forged right on in creepy human approximations, developing the Geminoid-F.
The Geminoid-F is a human-sized robot modeled after a woman (a ladybot, if you will). It’s designed to read and mimic human facial expressions. When presented with the actual woman the Geminoid is modeled after, the near-simultaneous expressions of the human and the robot have sort of a mirror-image/twin effect—hence the Gemini-based name. The Geminoid could accurately reproduce a grim, furrowed brow expression, a smile, and a teeth-baring laugh, just as its human “controller” made them. Neat, huh?
Except… would you consider the silent, open-mouthed laughter of a rubber-faced ladybot to be something pleasant, or an image out of a nightmare? Because one of the potential applications for the Geminoid is in hospitals, where, the its creators claim, data show “that robots give patients psychological security by nodding and smiling at them, when patients were checked on by doctors.”
I’ll let you do with that what you will. But… what? Wouldn’t it be cheaper (the robots cost about $110,000) and way, way, way, way less frightening to employ a human to smile and nod at the patient? But what do I know?
“Ms. Misato, I’m not sure how to say this, but… it looks like your cancer is back.”
“Oh my! This is such a nice robot. I can barely even hear its face motors running, and I think there’s a chance that it may not bite me. I feel so safe! What were you saying about my cancer?”

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