The Geminoid family has gathered together for the first time.
The ultrarealistic androids, each a copy of a real person, met on March 30 at Japan's ATR laboratory, near Kyoto.
Attending were Geminoid F, Geminoid HI-1, and Geminoid DK, as well as their respective originals: a twentysomething woman (whose identity remains a secret), Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, and Prof. Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University, in Denmark [photo above].
The Geminoid robots, conceived by Prof. Ishiguro and a team at ATR, are manufactured by Japanese firm Kokoro. The robots work as a person's telepresence avatar: A computer captures the person's voice, facial expressions, and upper-body movements and transmits this data to the android.
Anyone can teleoperate the androids, but the experience is certainly unique for those individuals who served as templates.
"We wanted to get together and share our experience of having robot copies," Scharfe told me. "The three of us has a lot of fun doing this."
Watch what happened:
But the meeting was also an opportunity to conduct experiments. With the three robots sitting around a table, the human originals teleoperated their own copies and tried to have a conversation. Then they took turns operating each other's Geminoids.
"Returning to your own Geminoid felt like coming home," Scharfe said.
The researchers also tried other configurations, for example by having the human originals sitting with their androids on the table while other people teleoperated the robots.
According to Prof. Scharfe, whose Geminoid cost some US $200,000 and will be shipped to Denmark soon, some situations felt more natural than others, but generally he could accept the different conditions as "real conversations."
He will now take time to interpret the material from these experiments and hopes to publish his findings at some point.
As for the next Geminoid reunion -- have the researchers schedule it yet?
"It's very costly to ship [the androids] around," Scharfe says. "So it might not happen again!"
Images and video: Geminoid DK
Erico Guizzo is the Director of Digital Innovation at IEEE Spectrum, and cofounder of the IEEE Robots Guide, an award-winning interactive site about robotics. He oversees the operation, integration, and new feature development for all digital properties and platforms, including the Spectrum website, newsletters, CMS, editorial workflow systems, and analytics and AI tools. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.