Okay, I’ll admit it... I found myself wondering whether this was in fact a real robot, or actually a person pretending to be a robot.
It's not a fake. This is the latest iteration of the Geminoid series of ultra-realistic androids, from Japanese firm Kokoro and Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro. Specifically, this is Geminoid DK, which was constructed to look exactly like associate professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark.
UPDATE: We've just found a new video that is absolutely amazing:
When we contacted Prof. Scharfe inquiring about the android, he confirmed: "No, it is not a hoax," adding that he and colleagues in Denmark and Japan have been working on the project for about a year now. His Geminoid, which cost some US $200,000, was built by Kokoro in Tokyo and is now at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Nara for setup and testing.
"In a couple of weeks I will go back to Japan to participate in the experiments," he says. "After that, the robot is shipped to Denmark to inhabit a newly designed lab."
Geminoid DK does look pretty much exactly like the original template:
The Geminoid is on the right. I think.
If you're wondering why on Earth someone would want an exact robotic double of themselves, besides being TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY AWESOME, the Geminoid is going to be used for studying human-robot interaction, in particular people's emotional responses when they face an android representing another person. Prof. Scharfe wants to find out if the robot can transmit a person's "presence" to a remote location and whether cultural differences in people's acceptance of robots make a difference.
These are some of the same questions that Hiroshi Ishiguro set out to explore when he created his robot clone, the Geminoid HI-1, and a copy of a twentysomething Japanese model, the Geminoid F [see photos, right].
For his part, Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University and group leader at ATR, declined to give us more details about his involvement with the Geminoid DK project, saying only that he and Scharfe "are working together."
Like with the other Geminoid robots, all of the movements and expressions of Geminoid DK are remote controlled by an operator with a computer, who uses a motion-capture system that tracks facial expressions and head movements. Turn your head and the Geminoid does the same; move your mouth and the android follows suit.
But it's not hard to imagine full autonomy in the not-to-distant future.
Incidentally, according to a note on his website here's what Prof. Scharfe's wife thinks about his robotic double:
- She prefers body number 1
- She suggests that he should always send body number 2 to conferences and stuff
Prefers body number 1, eh? Does she know that body number 2 is upgradeable?
Here's another video and more (freaky) pics of Geminoid DK in the making to fuel your nightmares, enjoy:
Images and videos: Geminoid DK Project
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.