Japan is one of the most robot-friendly countries in the world.
It already makes use of 250,000 robots across Japanese industry (more than any other country in the world) and expects this number to surpass 1 million by 2025, according to Time.
In a recent impressive display of robotics technology, Japanese robotics company KUKA pitted one of its robot arms against Timo Boll, ranked the eighth-greatest ping pong player in the world. The two faced off in a match with Boll ultimately winning. But the score is rather telling: while Boll won with 11 points, the robot still racked up an impressive 9 points against the human table tennis champion.
But when will robot “fashion” rise meet robot “function?” Science fiction and technology fans alike love to speculate over when robots will be indistinguishable from humanity — consider the Replicants of “Blade Runner” fame. Futurist Ray Kurzweil already predicts that robots will outsmart us in 15 years — how long until they “out-real” us as well?
It’s a pretty tall order to make a realistic human face and body. Roboticists can get close, but they’re not about to fool anyone, yet. As such, there’s a shocking disparity between “expecting to register an object as a human” and “actually registering that object as a gross robot” called the “uncanny valley.” As a robot becomes more human-like, it becomes more appealing. But once it gets “too human,” it’s repulsive (see the picture). If you push past that, to the point where the robot is indistinguishable from a real person, it becomes appealing again. We like things that look like us, but only if they completely succeed in doing so.
Japan’s industrial robots and non-humanoid creations are already thriving — we’ll meet some of them shortly. But we’ll also take a look at the country’s eerie robotic human analogs that foreshadow a future where it might not be so easy to tell them apart from “real” people.
This robot is called 'Fukitorimushi,' or 'Wipe-Up Bug.' It looks like an articulated pillow and moves in a squirmy motion across your floor to clean it with a polyester fibre pad.
This is the Mocoro, another cleaning robot that rolls across your floor like a neon tumbleweed for 15 minutes at a time. It's for putting an end to dust bunnies under the couch.
The Janken Robot does one thing, but it does it very well. It can beat any human competitor at paper-scissor-rock. It's vision system can identify the sign you'll throw before you throw it, then it positions its hand into a winning sign in one millisecond.
The Janken Robot does one thing, but it does it very well. It can beat any human competitor at paper-scissor-rock. Its vision system can identify the sign you'll throw before you throw it, then it positions its hand into a winning sign in 1 millisecond.
This swine flu robot displays symptoms (coughing, sweating, heavy breathing) of the H1N1 virus and is used to help train doctors in diagnosing the disease.
This is the Repliee R-1 robot, modelled after a 5-year-old Japanese girl and a rather glaring example of how unsettling the uncanny valley can be.
Meet 'Child with Biometric Body,' or CB2. It's supposedly as intelligent as a toddler -- it can stand up, walk on its own, and respond to touch and voice.
That's Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University on the television screen. He build 'Geminoid' to be a replica of himself. It even has his own real hair on its head.
This robotic female head is called 'Kaori-chan,' and is designed to tell you if you have bad breath. If that seems like a silly idea, that's because it is -- the creator wanted to make lighthearted robots to make people smile after the 2011 earthquake in eastern Japan.
Here's a sex robot that makes use of an *ahem* manipulator to provide physical feedback to the virtual scene unfolding in the Oculus Rift VR headset.
Here's a sex robot that makes use of an ahem manipulator to provide physical feedback to the virtual scene unfolding in the Oculus Rift VR headset.