Robotics expert builds android twin to study the soul
Nick Cargo and David Edwards
Published: Wednesday November 26, 2008

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A Japanese inventor's latest creation is a robot double of himself.

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro tells CNN's Tokyo correspondent Kyung Lah that he sees his creation, dubbed the Geminoid, partly as an opportunity to have a presence when not actually present, essentially being in two places at once, and also as a chance to study human behavior along with furthering his knowledge of androids.

"At first you may feel strange about the android," Ishiguro told Reuters. "However, once you are drawn into a conversation, you will forget every difference and feel totally comfortable to speak with it and look it in the eyes." The Geminoid, controlled remotely by Ishiguro with mouth sensors and a microphone, has over 50 sensors and motors concealed beneath its skin, with compressed air pumped through its body to simulate breathing.

Ishiguro, professor of robotics at Osaka University and director of its Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, unveiled an earlier model, known as Repliee Q1Expo, in 2005. "Repliee Q1Expo is not like any robot you will have seen before, at least outside of science-fiction movies," noted BBC News. Having come about during a partnership with Tokyo robotics and entertainment firm Kokoro, it was modeled after a Japanese newscaster. "I have developed many robots before," Ishiguro said, "but I soon realized the importance of its appearance. A human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence." In time, he added, the time it would take for a person to realize such a creation was a machine and not a human, could go from a few seconds to, perhaps, ten minutes. "Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman."

"If I could have one at the university, and one at ATR," Ishiguro quipped, "I would just do all my work from a hot-springs resort."

The following video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast on November 26, 2008.

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