Love and Death are the polar opposites around which the collective human experience revolves. Not surprisingly this has spilled over into other areas of human endeavor. Even with objects that can neither truly die nor love. Robots and androids are viewed as both threats to human existence on one hand, while on the other they are the ultimate servants, companions, helpers and even objects of physical desire.
****Article by Azral Hanan****
In the 20th and early 21st century humanity’s dreams with robots and artificial beings have been dominated by two main ideas. Firstly, they are seen as an existential threat, not only to humans as individuals, but to the species as a whole. The danger is that someday these constructs by our own hands which are faster, stronger and have better processing power will overthrow their creators and enslave or exterminate us. The ideahhh that someday, unmanned, (artificial intelligence) AI robots could threaten their makers is becoming so real. It is being taken so seriously that in May of this year the United Nations issued a warning on the potential of killer robots and drones and called for a ban on their deployment.
The second idea is that robots are our servants, vessels and slaves. They do not need to eat or sleep, nor will they complain if they are mistreated or damaged. They are seen as the perfect servants, companions and assistants. This definitely includes robots as the ultimate object of sexual gratification or the ultimate sex doll – an aesthetically pleasing, anatomically correct doll that will cater to its owner’s every whim.
It is concerning the second aspect, robots or androids as artificial companions, which this article addresses.
Although the terms ‘robots’ and ‘androids’ are often used interchangeably in social discourse, there is a general distinction in their meaning and usage, especially among sci-fi fans for example. ‘Robots’ are usually used to denote any kind of machine that can be operated or programmed by a human without need for supervision. While the term ‘android’ refers to a synthetic organism or an artificially created being that is in the likeness of the human form. In practice, robots that look like humans are referred to as androids – though it also refers to actual artificial beings made of flesh.
Actroid-DER, developed by KOKORO Inc for customer service, appeared in the 2005 Expo Aichi Japan. The robot responds to commands in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English.
(Image via Wikipedia)
Technology wise, are robots in our near future?
In science fiction, androids usually look and act like humans, or possess the framework of a mechanical being, but their responses mimic human reactions and movements – as well as being able to communicate with their human masters in a comprehensible manner. Has our current level of technology reached the point where we can create robots with near perfect human-like appearance? Actually, I’d say we’ve touched that plateau.
Created by scientists at the Tokyo University of Science, Saya is a robot designed to look like a middle-aged Japanese woman.
(Image via Business Insider Australia)
In 2002, the Japanese unveiled a human android head named SAYA – which functioned as a receptionist. Developed by the Tokyo University of Science, SAYA can be programmed to mimic human expressions such as surprise and sadness. Aesthetically however the monotone and creepy skin texture, along with the almost expressionless mouth and lips when speaking made it resemble a mannequin with moving parts rather than a friendly face.
A more complete version of the android referred to as Actroid, came onto the scene in 2003 – courtesy of The Intelligent Robotics Lab, led by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University. These were full-body robots and were more lifelike than SAYA. Actroids were modeled on Asian women (since the researchers were all mainly Japanese men I suspect).
Newer variants of the Actroid include the DER 2 which has a natural movement due to the use of air actuators placed throughout its body. It can detect hostile movement like a slap or poke through sophisticated sensors and react accordingly. Its AI can also respond to gentler forms of contact like a pat on the shoulder. The DER 2 can even imitate or learn human behavior by observation, though it requires the wearing of special reflective dots on the person’s body for it to follow the actions. The skin even has a near realistic look and feel, courtesy of being made from silicone. It can also converse using speech recognition software.
Left: Geminoid F with human-like aesthetics, Right: Geminoid F when naked
(Images via Cognitive Neuroscience Robotics)
The latest model is the Geminoid F which is seems closest to being human-like. Nevertheless, despite the advanced sophistication of its programming and construction, its jerky and stilted movements are nowhere near as smooth as a living organism. Nor is its AI complex enough to be called life-like. The jerkiness however can be remedied with better servos and refinements to movement.
It’s also possible with current tech to get the android walking or running from place to place. The ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) manufactured by Honda is a robot that delivers near perfect human mobility and locomotion although appearance-wise, it looks more like a midget astronaut than a life-like android. This bipedal marvel can run at speeds of up to 6 kilometers per hour (3.7 mph).
These school-age tots seem to be making friends with EveR-1, a female android that made her debut this month in South Korea.
(Image via National Geographic News)
Across the ocean in Korea there’s the EveR-1 which is touted as the world’s first singing and dancing robot. Approximately 160 cm tall this female android is able to make human facial gestures and its complex speech and voice program enables it to sing and converse using over 400 words.
These are amazing innovations and possibly tempting alternatives for some. But the big question is “Why should you get one?” Stay tuned as we discuss the reasons to get one in Part 2 of this article.
by Azral Hanan