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Robotics
January 21

Android Robotics up to 2019: The real story; in 5 parts; part 2

This post is a continuation of the first part of the real story of Android Robotics describing the field from the beginning up to 2019.

Osaka University continued to collaborate with Kokoro Dreams constructing robots for academia. There was CB2 created in 2006 as a project for Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) at Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The robot was designed to resemble a child, a big one, but nevertheless, a child, to experiment on artificial intellegence and learning. In this sense CB2 was similar to quite an successful European project iCub beginning from 2009.


Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro at the time became interested in what i would describe «looking for a minimal human-likeness», creating robots that would not in a sense be fully human-like, but which would still retain human features. Telenoid, produced in August 2010 was the main robot that came out of that period, a sort of «large phone» in a robot form, controlled by an operator. There also was Elfoid created a year after, «a small phone». For most people these robots fell straight into the uncanny valley, but this did not meant that no research could've been done using those.


Arguably one of the most popular projects by Hiroshi Ishiguro was experimenting with teleoperation via androids of the likeness to a person who is supposed to be the operator. The first of such robots was Geminoid-HI-1, with HI meaning «Hiroshi Ishiguro», released on July 2006. Geminoids were all built by Kokoro Dreams, were air-driven, and were all lacking any autonomous functionalities (there could be some idle animations, though), and were fully remotely controlled by an operator. There were multiple versions of Geminoid-HI produced, if i recall correctly, four in total, and to this day research is happening using these robots.

During his 2012 lecture at Moscow State University, Hiroshi Ishiguro told an anecdote on how the university denied him payment if he was to use a teleoperated android to give a lecture instead of being present at the stage himself. Hiroshi Ishiguro likes to raise quite a lot of questions far beyond simple engineering, questions «what makes human a human», the kind of questions that documentary filmmakers like to put in the beginning of their films about androids. One of the points i find particularly interesting he made during that lecture, was on how android robotics is another way of researching humans, similarly how an artist might learn a lot about art by smartly copying others' works, an android roboticist learns about humans by recreating them in the form of androids.


Another Geminoid was created in 2009, this time based on a woman's image. Geminoid–F was similar to the earlier models of Geminoid–HI (later Geminoid-HI models received hand movements), and in 2011 Kokoro Dreams had shown Actoid-F based on the same design. Geminoid-F had not a research career, but a theatre one, performing in a stage play called «Sayonara» («Goodbye») in a role of an android. Later this stage play was adapted into a movie. There also was a stage play based on Anton Chekhov's «Three Sisters» in which Geminoid-F participated. Usage of androids in art and theatre is one of the expansions of the initial entertainment field, and as it turns out, androids work there quite well. Currently, to my knowledge, Geminoid-F stays with the Tokyo University of Arts.



Next, Geminoid-DK was released, with DK standing for «Denmark». This time the focus was again academic, and this was the first Geminoid to move overseas, as it was created in an image of a professor Henrik Schärfe from Aalborg University in Denmark. Geminoid-DK is notable for being one of the most realistic of the series, and it is also known how much the robot was cost to built, it was mentioned in the interviews that the total cost was $200,000.


At one point, three Geminoids with the people who were the source images met at one place, creating quite a scene.


Hiroshi Ishiguro's and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute android robotics research in teleoperation, autonomous operation and art had combined in a sense with the opening of a new «What is Human?» exhibition in June of 2014.

Two robots had opened the exhibition, Otonaroid («Adult-roid») and Kodomoroid («Child-roid»). Otonaroid is teleoperated by the museum's staff or by a guest, and can be seen at the museum to this day, although, the current version is a second iteration.

Kodomoroid had since moved to London to quietly perform idle animation at London Science Museum until late 2017, but initially she was reading the automatically parsed news articles. It was quite a curious sight, seeing a child robot reading, in a calm child TTS voice all the world news.
The third robot arrived soon after. Alter as it's called, is, like Telenoid, a «simplistic» android robot, created essentially as an art project. Random movements around Alter get scrambled and turn into movements of the robot, resulting in chaotic yet somewhat organic action. Currently, at the museum the second iteration of Alter is present.




A recent major project of Hiroshi Ishiguro, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) and Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) at Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and A-Lab is ERICA, shown to the world on August 2015. ERICA is an acronym for The ERATO Intellegent Conversational Android and she is the most complicated android of the team, possibly hardware-wise and definitely software-wise. There is plenty of documentaries and articles regarding ERICA, but i'll briefly describe the project.

ERICA was created not in an image of someone, but instead, modelled on DaVinci's principles of a perfect proportions. ERICA is a base for artificial intellegence research, but in addition to pure science, ERICA appears on television, and even has her own Twitter account, where she currently videoblogs daily. Of course, for videoblogs and TV shows, she is controlled, but the AI routines are quite impressive, and she can quite decently lead a conversation in English and Japanese without losing track of what being said, like even the Loebner prize winning Mitsuku.



ERICA also performed in a rap song about the AI research the team did, and it feels if out of the all videos in the story you were to watch one, this should be this one video, it's a perfect example of a nerdcore.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr867hoQB-M</oembed A-Lab needs to be mentioned a bit more than in the list of collaborators for ERICA, as it comes to be another major Japanese player in a last few years when it comes to constructing androids. The company is founded by Takeshi Mita in Tokyo and Hiroshi Ishiguro is the company's tech advisor. A-Lab first appeared in 2013 with the release of an android called Asuna. Asuna looks like a 15-year old girl, she is a teleoperated android with a bit of autonomous idle motion. <oembed>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNidindbyI8

A-Lab was in charge of engineering side of building an android copy of Leonardo da Vinci, which was designed by Professor Minoru Asada of Osaka University. The android was commissioned by Leonardo da Vinci Android Initiative and displayed at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan appropriately named «Leonardo da Vinci» at the same time World Expo 2015 was taking place near the city. The robot then returned to Japan, and for a brief moment was displayed at a showroom for JTEKT, a bearing-producing company.


With the financial support of PARCO, a Japanese retailer, Hiroshi Ishiguro in 2016 and 2017 advised on Androidol U and (possibly) Samantha U. The first android was planned to be used in an online show series, and went on a few publicity stunts, and in November of the last year went on an exhibition in India. The second so far had only been displayed at a Samantha Thavasa luxury bag bag shop earlier last year. The second video is by a Twitter user @missbitcoin_mai.



A-Lab continued to produce androids, Keieisyaroid, a couple of androids in the likeness of modern Japanese TV show celebrities (such as Totto which is notable for pseudo-AI or weak AI routines present). A-Lab has more androids in the likeness of other people in development.


One of the latest robots of theirs is an impressive android in the likeness of a Japanese classic writer Natsume Soseki. Natsume Soseki android was first displayed in December 2016, and to this day appears before students. While DaVinci mentioned above has a pre-recorded routine in Japanese and Italian, Natsume Soseki seems to be remotely controlled, but might have some pre-recorded routines and idle motions.


The latest project of Hiroshi Ishiguro and JST ERATO is ibuki, first shown to the public in July 2018. ibuki is a child android on a robotic-looking wheel body. One of the first researches published straight away is a research on how to imitate walking yet using the wheel body. ibuki is the base of a new Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project, with the project continuing the research in AI and human-robot interaction of Hiroshi Ishiguro. ibuki is motor-powered unlike most of the androids, which are air-powered, and he's also mobile, which is a new thing for Hiroshi Ishiguro android robots (there have been mobile robots in his laboratory since the beginning, but never androids).



Parallel to ibuki, in the last year, another child-looking android head was shown, created by a different team in Osaka University, an update to 2011 android Affetto.


Returning to Kokoro Dreams, they have not only produced research robots for Osaka University and the projects of Hiroshi Ishiguro. Actroid-SIT (nicknamed Eri) from 2010-ish resides in Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) and is used for human-robot interaction research performed by a team under the lead of Yutaka Kondo.



Two robots were commissioned from Kokoro Dreams in 2013 by Anhui Province Key Laboratory of Affective Computing and Advanced Intelligent Machines of Hefei University of Technology (P.R. China), one in the likeness of professor Xiao Sun, the research team leader. The woman robot utilises a similar base as Actroid DER3.


One fairly simple android built by Kokoro Dreams went to the T Stone Robotics Institute of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.


In 2015 a robot in a likeness of professor Yang Song («President of Shanghai Shenquing Industry and Japan Sanlian Robot Professor of Sanlian College») was revealed, and Hiroshi Ishiguro was involved with the design. It is quite an impressive android hardware-wise, but after an initial presentation all sources went quite quiet.


The next robot is far from being unknown, built by Kokoro Dreams in 2015, Nadine, is quite a popular figure. Nadine, an android built in the likeness of professor Nadia Thelman from Institute for Media Innovation, Nanyang Technological University (IMI NTU) is used for artificial intellegence and human-robot interaction research, and Nadia Thelman seem to be quite open with describing and showing the project to the public, to the level, that even the Wikipedia page for Nadine looks impressive.


continued in part three ...

Android Robotics up to 2019: The real story; in five parts; part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5
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