Geminoid Top 5: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Scary and the Beautiful

Geminoid is a robot-twin — i.e. an (almost) identical mechanical copy, of an actual human being. For the past several years I have been totally fascinated by the incredible progress in life-like geminoid technology and decided to compile a short list with the top 5 most impressive robots.

Geminoid DK was constructed to look exactly like Associate Professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark. The robot is going to be used for researching “emotional affordances” in human-robot interaction, the novel notion of “blended presence,” as well as cultural differences (from different continents) in the perception of robots.

All of the movements and expressions of Geminoid DK are remote controlled by an operator with a computer, who uses a motion-capture system that tracks facial expressions and head movements. Though it is still pretty far from the final version this geminoid seems to be the most realistic of the bunch.

One of the latest robots by Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University is Geminoid F. The android is a copy of a woman in her twenties and can smile, frown, and change facial expressions more naturally than Ishiguro’s previous generation of geminoids. In addition, the robot is acting in a 20 min futuristic play titled Sayonara, where it recites poetry to a terminally ill woman.

Bina 48 is an advanced geminoid robot which resides at the Terasem Movement Foundation in Bristol, Vermont. Bina is a body-less robot modeled on a real human called Bina Rothblatt, who spent hours talking to the bot in order to develop its personality traits and vocabulary. As you can see from her NY Times interview, Bina 48 often gives inappropriate responses yet she is a work in progress and is, overall, far more coherent than other robots, especially since it is the sole autonomous (non-telepresence operated) geminoid in the list.

Hiroshi Ishiguro’s original Geminoid HI-1 was among the first realistic human robo-clones. Ishiguro constructed his evil mechanical twin using silicone rubber, pneumatic actuators, powerful electronics, and hair from his own scalp. The android is positioned in a sitting posture and cannot walk but does a descent job of mimicking  his human master, who can control it via telepresence computer interface.

The HRP-4C Miru (aka diva-bot) was produced by a research team from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tokyo. The robot appears to have a geminoid head on top of a standard android HRP-4 body and can stand upright, walk and even sing. It is using a technology called VocalListener which allows it to observe a human singer and synthesize the appropriate notes of the song. Facial expressions are generated with a second technology, called Vocawatcher, which analyzes the video of the singer’s expressions and replicates them on the geminoid’s face. The software used is so sophisticated that it allows for imitating and synthesizing even the breathing sounds and pauses that a human singer would naturally take.

So, in your view, which one is the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Scary and the Beautiful?

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