We all know it’s coming: the day when machines would be indistinguishable from human beings. And with a robot that is capable of imitating human body language and facial expressions, it seems we are that much closer to realizing it. It’s known as the Geminoid HI-2, a robotic clone of its maker, famed Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro.
Ishiguro unveiled his latest creation at this year’s Global Future 2045 conference, an annual get-together for all sorts of cybernetics enthusiasts, life extension researchers, and singularity proponents. As one of the world’s top experts on human-mimicking robots, Ishiguro wants his creations to be as close to human as possible.
Alas, this has been difficult, since human beings tend to fidget and experience involuntary tics and movements. But that’s precisely what his latest bot excels at. Though it still requires a remote controller, the Ishiguro clone has all his idiosyncrasies hard-wired into his frame, and can even give you dirty looks.
This is not the first robot Ishiguro has built, as his female androids Repliee Q1Expo and Geminoid F will attest. But above all, Ishiguro loves to make robotic versions of himself, since one of his chief aims with robotics is to make human proxies. As he said during his talk, “Thanks to my android, when I have two meetings I can be in two places simultaneously.” I honestly think he was only half-joking!
During the presentation, Ishiguro’s robotic clone was on stage with him, where it realistically fidgeted as he pontificated and joked with the audience. The Geminoid was controlled from off-stage, where an unseen technician guided it, and fidgeted, yawned, and made annoyed facial expressions. At the end of the talk, Ishiguro’s clone suddenly jumped to life and told a joke that startled the crowd.
In Ishiguro’s eyes, robotic clones can outperform humans at basic human behaviors thanks to modern engineering. And though they are not yet to the point where the term “android” can be applied, he believes it is only a matter of time before they can rival and surpass the real thing. Roboticists and futurists refer to this as the “uncanny valley” – that strange, off-putting feeling people get when robots begin to increasingly resemble humans. If said valley was a physical place, I think we can all agree that Ishiguro would be its damn mayor!
And judging by these latest creations, the time when robots are indistinguishable from humans may be coming sooner than we think. As you can see from the photos, there seems to be very little difference in appearance between his robots and their human counterparts. And those who viewed them live have attested to them being surprisingly life-like. And once they are able to control themselves and have an artificial neural net that can rival a human one in terms of complexity, we can expect them to mimic many of our other idiosyncrasies as well.
As usual, there are those who will respond to this news with anticipation and those who respond with trepidation. Where do you fall? Maybe these videos from the conference of Ishiguro’s inventions in action will help you make up your mind: