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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Robot Replicants Gather With Their Originals In World’s Creepiest Reunion (video)

by Aaron Saenz

Geminoid Summit
Meet the Geminoids and their human counterparts. Can you tell which is which?

There are only a handful of people in the world who can say they have a robotic clone of themselves, and most of them just got together in Japan. ATR’s facilities in Nara hosted a bizarre reunion at the end of March as three Geminoid robot replicants and their originals met for a press conference and photo shoot. The first clone was modeled after its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, another bot is a copy of an unnamed Japanese woman, and the latest is a dead-ringer for Henrik Sharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark. Watch all six of these ‘people’ converse and interact in the video below, followed by some more great pics. Looking at the progression from the oldest (the Ishiguro-bot) to the newest (Sharfe-bot) it’s clear that the Geminoids are getting better…and relatively quickly too. It may only be a matter of a few years until these replicants look human enough to pass as one of us.

Ishiguro first demonstrated his robot clone (Geminoid HI-1) back in 2006, the female version (Geminoid F) arrived in early 2010, and Sharfe’s clone was ordered in 2010 but took six months to create (and reportedly cost $200k). Geminoid DK (as it is called) arrived early this year. While all have very similar pneumatically driven systems that are remote controlled by human users, Geminoid DK appears much more life-like. Perhaps it’s the facial hair covering some of the imperfections, but in any case it really comes close to bridging the Uncanny Valley…as long as it’s sitting still. Here is a video of Geminoid DK’s movements that was released after our previous coverage came out. This clip really showcases the life-like and creepy motions of the robot:

While Ishiguro continues to improve his Geminoid creations (in association with ATR and produced by Kokoro) Sharfe is aimed at studying how humans will accept/interact with them. This little Geminoid summit then represents the two halves of human-like robotics research: technical and social. Undoubtedly the next Geminoid that Ishiguro and his team creates will be even more realistic, perhaps able to show its teeth without causing my hackles to rise. In the meantime, Sharfe and colleagues may be able to explain to us what humanity really can expect from its upcoming future full of robotic clones. I suspect that no matter how human-like these bots will appear, we won’t fully accept them until they have human-like personalities as well.
Quick, someone make a Geminoid of a prominent AI researcher and bring them into the fold!

Geminoid Summit 02
Sometimes I really get the willies when I think Geminoid HI-1 is looking at me. To be fair, I get the same feeling when I think Ishiguro is looking at me, too.
Geminoid Summit 03
The improvements that ATR/Kokoro/Ishiguro have made since 2006 are so clear. Geminoid DK (right) wins the human look alike contest hands down.
Geminoid Summit 04
This is my favorite photo from the event because when you focus on Ishiguro, you forget that the two people on either side of him aren't really people at all.
[image and video credits: Geminoid DK]

[source: Geminoid DK (Facebook page)]

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