The Japanese seem to be leading the world in robotics, and in particular in attempts to develop an android — that is, a robot that possesses human features.
One of the latest ventures in that regard is the Telenoid R1, created by a professor at Osaka University. Oddly, it is marketed as a kind of telecommunications tool. The concept is that people will respond to the eye and head movements of the android and communicate more effectively and naturally than they would by staring at a teleconference screen of a distant conference room full of people. It’s hard to believe that anyone would really relate to a bald, legless, armless, herky-jerky machine that looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost, but that is the professor’s hope. (In fact, he is developing an even more bizarre hand-held device that looks like a stress-relieving squeeze toy.) I found a video of the Telenoid R1 on YouTube, and it is pretty creepy to watch. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to find yourself talking earnestly to this thing?
We’re clearly moving closer and closer to android technology, but one of the big hurdles for me will be the sheer alien strangeness of a human-looking machine. Even if the device was an animated as Max Headroom, how could you get beyond the understanding that you are talking to a bunch of nuts and bolts?