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Will Japanese newscasters soon be out of a job? If so, perhaps they can be comforted by one of the creepily lifelike robots unveiled Tuesday that can not only read the news but also snuggle if asked.
Robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, demonstrated three new androids at a Tokyo exhibition, one of which read the news without stumbling once and even recited complex tongue twisters. The so-called Kodomoroid — an amalgamation of the Japanese word “kodomo” (child) and “android” — delivered reports of an earthquake and an FBI raid to journalists.
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The robot, designed with a girlish appearance, can use a variety of voices, such as a deep male voice one minute and a squeaky girly voice the next. The speech can be input by text, giving them perfect articulation, according to Ishiguro.
Kodomoroid was joined at the demonstration by another woman robot, Otonaroid (“otona” means “adult”) and the minimally designed Telenoid, a mannequin head with pointed arms that serves as a cuddly companion — it, in fact, knows how to snuggle. Watch the video below.
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Still, they aren’t perfect. 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. But glitches are common with robots because they are delicate gadgetry sensitive to their environment.
It turns out the robots were designed to serve a purpose other than just reading the news. Ishiguro says they will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.
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“Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human,” he told reporters Tuesday, “examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking?”
Incidentally, the unveiling came a few days after Tesla founder Elon Musk gave a warning about artificial intelligence and computers potentially thinking for themselves.
“I think there are things that are potentially dangerous out there. … There have been movies about this, like Terminator,” he told CNBC’s Closing Bell. “There are some scary outcomes, and we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad.”
For his part, Musk recently invested in an artificial intelligence startup called Vicarious, which is working on machines that mimic human brains.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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