Oddly Enough

Who me? Researcher creates robot double

KYOTO (Reuters) - Ever wished you could be in two places at one time? A Japanese researcher has managed it, through a robot that looks and moves exactly like him.

The “Geminoid” was fashioned by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University using a model of his body and hair from his head.

When you poke its face, the robot grimaces like a real human, thanks to the more than 50 sensors and motors that are implanted beneath its lifelike skin. It appears to breathe when compressed air is pumped through its body.

“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.”

Japans is hooked on androids, with several companies selling robots that mimic human action such as playing drums or dancing to music.

With Japan’s population expected to slide by around a quarter by 2050, and immigration a sensitive issue, some laboratories have developed humanoid robots that can work as maids.

But the machines are a long way from the self-aware androids of movies such as “I, Robot” and “Bicentennial Man,” despite the best efforts of Ishiguro, who also does research at Kyoto robotics laboratory ATR.

Ishiguro controls the android’s movements with a remote control and sensors attached to his body.

He can see through its eyes, which act like cameras that beam images back to a monitor.

Ishiguro, who moves his neck or hands to give the robot human-like twitches, is very attached to his robotic twin.

“I don’t find any particular difference between talking through Geminoid and talking as myself,” he said.

“And curiously, when the body of Geminoid is touched by somebody, I get very similar feelings of being touched.”