The rise of AI and Robots
The future featured in the movie “I, Robot” from 2004 (production of 20th Century Fox) now seems much more likely now than it used to fourteen years ago. From sci-fi to reality in less than 15 years is quite the step not only for technology but also for us and our understanding of how this will change our lives. In this article I will explore some of the progress made in the last eight years in the fields of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotics.
Geminoid F (from Kokoro Co)
The Japanese company Kokoro-Dreams.co (based in Tokyo) created its first models back in 2003 in partnership with the Osaka University. Those early social companions were called actoids and they are still popular as being offered for rental. One of the most famous fembots (robots with female features) of these series is the so called Geminoid F which was used in the movie “Sayonara” in 2015. The company advertised the Geminoid F in a video from 2010 in which the showed how the robot can trace the movements around it, make facial expressions and bow. The product is developed by prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist from the Osaka University who cooperated with Kokoro Co and ATR for this project.
The Geminoid F is amazing for its real-like appearance and was modeled after a young woman in her twenties. In general, the fembot could be tele-operated and can speak if needed but the conversation is scripted and not very interactive but still it can serve as a social companion nonetheless.
You can watch the video from YouTube about the Geminoid F here: >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q4qwLknKag
The Kokoro-Dreams.co is also producing other intriguing robots such as dinosaurs and Amazon fauna which are very real-like.
Nadine (from NTUS)
The autonomous Nadine was activated in 2013 and is a much more interesting model since it can actually recall from previous conversations she had with you. She was designed at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She uses the so called “Perception-Decision-Action Architecture” which is modeled after our way of interacting socially. Nadine makes you fell in the presence of a real-like smart companion because it can hear, see, make gestures, recognizes faces and previous conversations and make facial expressions even though they are a bit rigid. So far, the fembot can be used as a receptionist in an office since it can read stories to kids, show images, have Skype sessions and even send emails.
The robots mentioned until now have some limitations though. They are very dependable on certain technology which should be carried always and then used around them so they can operate normally.
Sophia (from Hanson Robotics)
My next pick is probably the most famous fembot of all – Sophia. This is a social robot which was activated for the first time in 2015 and is designed by the company Hanson Robotics. Its creator is Dr. David Hanson who partnered with Google and used their software called Singularity Net. This fembot is modeled after Audrey Hepburn and actually one of the models even got a citizenship from Saudi Arabia in October 2017. Since this robot has very famous creators, there is little surprise that it is used in so many publicity stunts and hype as a whole.
One Sophia model was presented at Webit Festival Europe 2018 which was held in Sofia Bulgaria on June 26-27.
The fembot was used as a host and actually introduced the creator of Webit – Dr. Plamen Russev on the stage and had a conversation with him. In the some-what funny talk between the two, Sophia interrupted Mr. Russev a few times and also made jokes with him. The voice of Sophia was astonishing and in full mastery of the English language.
It was only later when a few of the guests greeted the fembot and it was obvious that Sophia was put in some power safe-mode. But despite this little flaw, the robot has operated (seemingly) autonomously and it had very appropriate answers of the questions asked.
Later Dr. David Hanson from Hanson Robotics spoke of the progress which is made in the field of AI and how the robots are becoming more and more used in everyday life. He also spoke about the latest Sophia models being improved by becoming able to walk and also stay operative for two hours.
Dibo + (from TALAPOIN)
Dibo + is designed by the founder and CEO of TALAPOIN, spol. S r.o.(based in Bratislava, Slovakia) – Mr. Jozef Dubovec and his team of engineers.
Unlike the other robots from this list, Dibo + is more of old-fashioned type of robot, still beautiful with its ceramic-like body and almost childish appearance.
This robot is made with the idea of being a social companion and also a supporter of certain operations. A few of those include working in: offices, hospitals and banks. Another application could be its use as a domestic robot.
In the office, Dibo + could deactivate the alarm, welcome the clients, connect with customers through the phone, assist with the payments and also switch to surveillance-mode by connecting in with the facility cameras.
In the hospitals, it could make first contact with patients, make pre-analysis of symptoms, monitoring the life-functions, alert and make emergency calls if needed.
In banks, it may provide clients with important information and new banking products. Dibo + could make first analysis of client needs, make a biometric identification for those registered in this system and also automate most of the process so it could save time.
At home you can use Dibo + to watch over your security system by activating it when needed. It can also wake you up if programmed to do so, provide you with information about your day schedule or even tell you about sport results from your favorite games. During family gatherings it could play movies through its “eyes” like a smartphone-projector, read stories and even help with the education of children.
Avatar Shaman (from Walt Disney World)
Created by the Walt Disney Imagineering team and activated in 2017, the Avatar Shaman (like the nation Na’vi from the movie “Avatar” from 2009) looks very real, almost like a real alien. The robot is now part of the popular attraction – Na’vi River Journey ride at the Walt Disney World.
Its motor capabilities are exceeding those shown from the others and if seen in the right context (Pandora scenery) the Avatar is perceived as something unnatural or more likely CGI. On a clip released from Disney World the Avatar is greeting the public and it looks as real as possible, almost perfect. Its facial expressions do not stop in one moment but ease in and ease out slightly and fluently to create this human-like behavior. It is fully dependable on electricity.
The Avatar Shaman can be seen in action on this YouTube link here: >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p4mn5BstQo
This robot has sprung from a company which has dwelled so much in the world of re-creation of human movements into animations that such a mastery of all the intricacies is of no surprise.
The Walt Disney Imagineering executive producer – Lisa Girolami stated this: “We don’t stop until the technology can’t be seen. It should be invisible.”
Written by: Lyubomir S. Evtimov