Toshiba's Lifelike Communication Android
The Toshiba corporation has developed a new android; it can move its arms and hands smoothly and communicate with Japanese sign language. The intent is that the android will be a service unit that can assist people in the fields of welfare and healthcare.
(Toshiba's Lifelike Communication Android)
The android has the appearance of a friendly young woman, an impression accentuated by blinking eyes and a warm smile. At present, the android can mimic only simple movements, such as exchanging greetings and signing in Japanese, but Toshiba will integrate its wide-ranging technologies in areas including sensing, speech synthesis, speech recognition and robotic control to realize a more sophisticated social robot by 2020. The goal is to design a companion for the elderly and people with dementia, to offer telecounseling in natural speech, communicate through sign language and allow healthcare workers or family members to keep an eye on elderly people.
Toshiba developed the android in collaboration with aLab Inc., Osaka University, Shibaura Institute of Technology, and Shonan Institute of Technology. Drawing on technologies and expertise built up through the development of industrial robots, Toshiba created an algorithm to coordinate the movement of 43 actuators in the androidís joints. Shibaura Institute of Technology and Shonan Institute of Technology contributed robot driving and sensor-based motion teaching technologies, and aLab Inc. and Osaka University provided the technologies required to create a body with a human-like resemblance and emulate human expressions. As a result, the upper part of the body has a human appearance and moves fluidly. Toshiba aims to put the android into practical use as a receptionist or as an exhibition attendant within next year.
There is a very specific reference to this idea in science fiction decades ago. The android character Rachael in the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep had the job of spokesperson for the corporation she worked for.
Update: In his 1940 short story Robbie, sf great Isaac Asimov describes a robot that communicates entirely with gestures:
Robbie waited until she had caught her breath and then pulled gently at a lock of hair.
"You want something?" said Gloria, eyes wide in an apparently artless complexity that fooled her huge "nursemaid" not at all. He pulled the curl harder.
"Oh, I know. You want a story." Robbie nodded rapidly.
"Which one?" Robbie made a semi-circle in the air with one finger. The little girl protested, "Again? I've told you Cinderella a million times. Aren't you tired of it? -It's for babies."
"Oh, well," Gloria composed herself, ran over the details of the tale in her mind (together with her own elaborations, of which she had several) and began...
Via Toshiba press release.
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