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Japanese androids hold news conference, chat with baby droids

Tim Hornyak | Jan. 21, 2015
The female robots introduced a pair of tabletop conversation robots, CommU and Sota.

After the news conference, one of the robots' human developers explained the project's goals.

"The purpose of ERATO is to develop a fully autonomous interactive robot, and this is just the first stage," said Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, whose robotic creations include android versions of himself and his daughter as well as Kodomoroid and Otonaroid. "Precise voice recognition is difficult in robots but by watching the interaction between two robots, we can have a very realistic feeling of conversation."

The developers have submitted a patent application based on their insights into how to make robot conversation sound natural, including the timing of questions and answers, Ishiguro added.

The news conference had scripted dialogs and there were human operators remotely controlling the full-sized androids, but Sota will have voice and image recognition abilities and can be loaded with various apps. Sota could be used to help sell electronics and other products, according to Ishiguro.

That approach is also being taken up by mobile carrier SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper, which has been deployed to help sell Nestle coffee machines in Japan. Pepper is slated to go on sale this year in Japan for around ¥200,000.

 

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