Japanese engineers are developing robots that look like kids to study human cognition. They may be creepy enough to be understudies for Chucky, but these humanoids may pave the way for better robot-human interaction.
The researchers led by Osaka University professor Minoru Asada and colleagues at the University of Tokyo recently introduced Noby, based on a 9-month-old baby, and M3-Kindy, modeled on a 5-year-old child, respectively.
The aim is to advance knowledge of cognitive development--and by extension, artificial intelligence--by getting robots to mimic human growth through interaction.
Noby is infant-size and weighs about 17 pounds. It's embedded with 600 sensors and can display a range of behaviors such as interest in toys and objects presented to it.
The larger Kindy weighs some 60 pounds and has 42 motors and more than 100 tactile sensors. It can recognize speech, mimic human facial expressions and crawl around or walk hand-in-hand with someone. Both bots have soft synthetic skin as well as ear microphones and eye cameras to understand their environment.
So while the Japanese population is shrinking, its government is paying to create robot babies. No doubt Noby and Kindy will one day meet their robo-baby brethren Diego, the 1-year-old giant-headed cyberbaby; Yotaro the crib wailer; and Miguelin, the 21-foot terror of the 2010 Expo, and take over the world.