The idea of building automated machines able to reproduce human behavior has deep roots in our collective imaginary. Although present day robots are far from the intelligent and versatile products of the sci-fi universe, important breakthroughs are being made each passing year. Computers have no longer problems in passing the Touring Test and we are entitled to believe that one day it would be impossible to tell the difference between a human and a robot.
Japan is unanimously accepted as the homeland of robots. The International Robot Exhibition (IREX), which takes places once every two years, is the front end of
Junko Chihira, a 165-centimeter tall android designed to resemble a 26-year-old Japanese woman, is the symbol of Japan’s “Robot Revolution Initiative”, a government-supported action meant to promote large scale use of robots in healthcare, hospitality, and other sectors.
ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, is one of the most famous robots created by Japan. Although introduced a decade and a half ago, ASIMO is still a symbol of advances in robotics. Able to run or walk at speeds up to 6 km/h, ASIMO is still used in demonstrations around the world intended to create a bridge between human-like robots and the general public.
Although unable to fool someone that she is not a robot, Actroid-DER2 does a pretty good job in putting together exotic facial expressions as well as an attractive look. Intended to be an event greeter, Android-DER2 can easily serve as an anchor female model for automotive expos or technology fairs.
It is easy to see that robots will be introduced in order to take care of the job and operations we humans are no longer willing to do. The service industry is the first to come in mind, and it’s not hard to see human-like robots behind the counters or in restaurants. Large scale production is already using automation to a large degree, making human manual labor obsolete for industries like the automotive one.
If robots are the future, we should be prepared for the role of creators and fathers. Unleashing autonomous robots will make us responsible for their behavior and well-being, and a couple of dystopias are already there to tell us what might go wrong.