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Meet Kodomoroid, Japan's android newsreader

by Susan Ohanian

I like the detail that one can carry an android news reader on planes -- the torso in the suitcase and the head in carry-on. This will enable the U. S. Department of Education to send out its party line--with no fear of a live Arne going off script.

This will enable the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation to populate many more news programs, which are already populated by news readers only one step removed from android status.

by staff

Tokyo: Japanese scientists have unveiled what they say is the world's first news-reading android, eerily lifelike and possessing a sense of humour to match her perfect language skills.

The adolescent-looking "Kodomoroid" -- an amalgamation of the Japanese word "kodomo" [child] and "android" -- delivered news of an earthquake and an FBI raid to amazed reporters in Tokyo.

She even poked fun at her creator, telling leading robotics professor Hiroshi Ishiguro: "You're starting to look like a robot!"
Japanese announcer Aki Nakata (left) smiles as she poses with a new humanoid robot named "Kodomoroid" at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology in Tokyo.

The pitch-perfect Kodomoroid was flanked by a grown-up fellow robot, who caught stage fright and fluffed her lines when asked to introduce herself.

"Otonaroid" -- "otona" meaning adult -- excused herself after a quick reboot, saying: "I'm a little bit nervous."

Both androids will work at Tokyo's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, interacting with visitors to collect data for Mr Ishiguro's studies into human reactions to the machines.

"We will have more and more robots in our lives in the future," Mr Ishiguro said.

"You can take my androids on planes -- the torso in the suitcase and the head in carry-on."

Mr Ishiguro has a humanoid version of himself which he sends overseas to give lectures.

"It cuts down on my business trips," he said.

"Technical advances mean robots look and act more human, and that makes us think about our worth."

Otonaroid looked as if she could need rewiring before beginning her new role as the museum's science communicator, her lips out of sync and her neck movements symptomatic of a bad night's sleep.

But Mr Ishiguro insisted both would prove invaluable to his continued research as museum visitors get to have conversations with the 'droids and operate them as extensions of their own body.

"This will give us important feedback as we explore the question of what is human," said the 50-year-old.

"We want robots to become increasingly clever."

A chatty humanoid called Pepper designed by SoftBank as a household companion is set to go on sale for around $US2000 ($A2165) in Japan next year after a successful debut earlier this month.

"That's the same price as a laptop computer," said Mr Ishiguro. "It's incredible."

As the line between humans and machines continued to blur, Mr Ishiguro's mechanical newscaster performed tongue-twisters, to the amazement of their human counterparts.

"My dream is to have my own TV show in the future," Kodomoroid said.

— staff
Brisbane Times





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