Hiroshi Ishiguro, a senior researcher at ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Japan, who has created a robot that looks and moves exactly like himself.
Created to fill in for him as professor at Osaka University, this robot twin known as Geminoid HI-1 even has the personal idiosyncrasies of its owner. It sits and fidgets, taps its toes and can sit in a chair and gaze around the room. The shoulders rise slightly as though it were really breathing.
It is so life-like that more than a few shivers creep up the spines of those who watch Geminoid HI-1 in action. Made from silicone casts actually taken from Ishiguro’s own body, Geminoid is powered by pressurized air and small actuators. Its micro-movements run on semi-autonomous motion programs.
Telecommuting has reached new limits as Ishiguro can now send his voice via lip sensors through the Geminoid robot from his home, more than one hour’s ride from the university.
Ishiguro seeks to convey, via the robot, a sense of sonzai-kan, or presence. It is this intangible factor that makes Geminoid HI-1 somewhat eerie.
“The idea is tele-interaction. If I access the android through the Internet, I do not need to go to ATR anymore. I want to check whether students, as well as my family can feel my presence through Geminoid. If I could have one robot at the university, and one at ATR, I would just do all my work from a hot-springs resort,” jokes Ishiguro.
Ishiguro calls his approach of combining engineering and cognitive science for the purpose of performing experiments about human perception, “android science.” He views Geminoid as a vehicle that can be used to learn more about human nature.
How far can this go?
Don’t ask Ishiguro; request an answer from Geminoid HI-1.
Perhaps you won’t even know the difference.