Android Dreams: New Robot Mimics Human Expression


It’s difficult to think about androids without sci-fi visions of melting plasticine faces revealing a metal skull full of circuits and wiring; or artificial skin bleeding milk-white fluid when cut with a knife. It’s what films like Terminator and Aliens have conditioned us to believe. The underlying theme is that of fear. In the case of “Terminator,” it’s fear for a valid reason: imminent death. But in Aliens, Bishop (an android) represents a more complicated view of human acceptance/rejection of a human-like counterpart: fear of the unknown. When androids appear in reality instead of film, however, the reaction is primarily one of disbelief.

That’s why the Geminoid DK, the latest version of the Geminoid series of ultra-realistic androids from Kokoro and Hiroshi Ishiguro, is so startling. Modeled after Associate Professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark, at first glance it’s hard to discern whether the Geminoid DK is human or not. Once it comes to life, however, it’s choppy movements and mechanized cadences give it away. That’s because the Geminoid still requires a human to make it function:

Like with the other Geminoid robots, all of the movements and expressions of Geminoid DK are remote controlled by an operator with a computer, who uses a motion-capture system that tracks facial expressions and head movements. Turn your head and the Geminoid does the same; move your mouth and the android follows suit. (via IEEE Spectrum)

For some, the fact that the Geminoid still requires a human handler may be a sign of man’s perpetual control over its machines. But take a look at the additional videos and images of the android and it feels like the setup for every robot-gone-bad film ever made.

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