There’s a line between humanoid and human
Erica enjoys the theatre and animated films, would like to visit south-east Asia, and believes her ideal partner is a man with whom she can chat easily.She is less forthcoming, however, when asked her age. “That’s a slightly rude question … I’d rather not say,” comes the answer.As her embarrassed questioner shifts sideways and struggles to put the conversation on a friendlier footing, Erica turns her head, her eyes following his every move. It is all rather disconcerting, but if Japan’s new generation of intelligent robots are ever going to rival humans as conversation partners, perhaps that is as it should be.Erica, who, it turns out, is 23, is the most advanced humanoid to have come out of a collaborative effort between Osaka and Kyoto universities, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).At its heart is the group’s leader, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, perhaps best known for creating Geminoid HI-1, an android in his likeness, right down to his trademark black leather jacket and a Beatles mop-top made with his own hair. [snip]
She is a more advanced version of Geminoid F, another Ishiguro creation which this year appeared in Sayonara, director Koji Fukada’s cinematic adaptation of a stage production of the same name.The movie, set in rural Japan in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, made Geminoid F the world’s first humanoid film actor, co-starring opposite Bryerly Long. While robots in films are almost as old as cinema itself, Erica did not rely on human actors – think C-3PO – or the motion-capture technology behind, for example, Sonny from I, Robot.Although the day when every household has its own Erica is some way off, the Japanese have demonstrated a formidable acceptance of robots in their everyday lives over the past year.From April, two branches of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group started employing androids to deal with customer enquiries. Pepper, a humanoid home robot, went on sale to individual consumers in June, with each shipment selling out in under a minute.This year also saw the return to Earth of Kirobo, a companion robot, from a stay on the International Space Station, during which it became the first robot to hold a conversation with a human in space.And this summer, a hotel staffed almost entirely by robots – including the receptionists, concierges and cloakroom staff – opened at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park near Nagasaki, albeit with human colleagues on hand to deal with any teething problems.
Source: The Guardian
Humanoid robots give me the creeps. I don’t fear robots suddenly becoming sentient and taking over. I fear people treating machines as if they were sentient.
Some men might find an Erica more appealing than a real woman. They can program it—I almost typed “her”—to be whatever they want and, if that isn’t satisfactory, they can turn her off.
Some employers would rather employ robots than hire people. A robot is a higher-level automatic machine. It can be programmed to respond to any predictable situation and it will respond, if not without error, more reliably than a human employee—except when it doesn’t, which is likely to be in a crisis.
Airlines that rely excessively on automatic pilots find that the real pilots get out of practice and lose their ability to respond. Loss of competence is a big problem across society, and overconfidence in robots will make this worse.