Philip K. Dick Robot Unveiled At NextFest 2005

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Philip K. Dick novel is his remarkable ability to blur the line between natural human beings and androids - human by artifice. For example, in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, he uses devices like the mood organ to make his human characters seem more like biological machines, open to manipulation. At the same time, the artificial human beings are made to seem more life-like.

(Philip K. Dick Robotic Memorial Portrait
At NextFest 2005)

The eerie robotic Philip K. Dick unveiled today at the NextFest 2005 event in Chicago is almost an objectification of Dick's fascination with what really makes people human. The robot was designed to provide a convincing imitation of life, with subtle head movements and facial expressions. The software that gives life to the device is well-stocked with all of Dick's printed works and memoirs. It also has face recognition software and a library of faces; it was capable of recognizing several of Dick's relatives who came to take a look at the project. It includes voice recognition and natural language processing features.

The Philip K. Dick robot is presented in a small 1970's living room; windows shut out excess noise that can ruin the voice recognition software that is used to interpret questions by visitors. I asked several questions, including "Are you paranoid?" and "Can you pass the Voight-Kampff test?"

Unfortunately, the Juke Bot presentation less than fifteen feet away made it difficult to really interact with the robot. So, I asked David Hanson, the CEO and Chief Scientist at Hanson Robotics (co-creators of the Philip K. Dick memorial robotic portrait); he responded with a firm "No" to the second question. Keep an eye on their products, though - this part of the future is coming on fast.

The Philip K. Dick android project is the creation of a team of designers, engineers, programmers and artists. Hanson Robotics, the FedEx Institute of Technology and the Automation and Robotics Research Institute at the University of Texas Arlington collaborated on the project.

If you are interested in life-like robots, take a look at Robot Repliee Q1. Find out more; see the pkd-Android Project and the project description at Hanson Robotics.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/24/2005)

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