We’ve known for a while that Japan is busy at work creating life-like human robots that will one day take over the world. But for the most part they’ve seemed pretty silly, like malfunctioning children that don’t quite know what they’re doing.
However the most recent Japanese android creation, Erica, might put a stop to that. She was created specifically with the goal of imitating human speech and body language patterns, in order to have “completely natural” conversations.
Will she be able to trick her inevitable suitors into thinking she’s real?
Erica is a project being worked on by engineers from the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Osaka University, the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, and Kyoto University. She was created with the goal of being able to have “a completely natural conversation” with a regular human being “with nothing feeling out-of-place”.
Of course being able to speak a human language perfectly is only one part of having a “natural conversation.” There are several other factors at play, such as (perhaps most importantly) looking like a human, and also acting like a human, too, with all the subtle body language we knowingly or subconsciously insert into every conversation we have.
Just taking a look at Erica so far, we can see that the team is getting pretty close on the first part. Erica stands 166 cm tall and was made to look like a Japanese-European.
But what about the second part, the speaking and the body language? Erica is programmed to understand and respond to spoken Japanese, not just with audio, but with movements as well. All the little things that we take for granted that make conversation flow naturally – blinking, moving your head, raising your eyebrows – she can do pretty well too.
Does this make her nearly human or just a wobbling audio player? You can watch a video of Erica below and decide for yourself.
While certainly not perfect, Erica is certainly the closest we’ve seen to a robot impersonating a human. While some are already claiming that androids will be used to impersonate people without their permission (and potentially fulfill awkward fantasies), others say that the technology is still nowhere near that point. I think that Erica shows us while we eventually might have to tackle that problem, we’re still not quite there yet.
Source: Japan Science and Technology Agency
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