Romantic robots get the look of love
Japanese inventors have created a 'female' robot that has the ability to blink, respond to eye contact and can recognize body language, opening the door for a new kind of romantic companion for humans.
Geminoid F looks like an everyday Eurasian female; she has soft, feminine features, brown hair and eyes and flushed pink cheeks. She has been dubbed the "love bot," due to her high level of intelligence.
She is the product of Osaka University's robotics engineers, who have been working towards creating a seamless, humanoid robot.
Initial work on Geminoid F began in the wake of Nintendo DS's 2009 game, Love Plus. The game was designed to simulate a high school romance, with players having the option to decide between three female characters, all of which exhibit typical womanly traits.
The engineer at the helm of the operation is Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro. He says Japanese men are able to fall in love with simulated versions of romance because of the cultural differences in Japan compared to Western society.
"In Japan, we believe that everything has a soul and therefore we don't hesitate to create human-like robots."
"We can accept that type of a new creature easily," he says.
Professor Ishiguro says the major reason for creating Geminoid F is to learn more about the human race.
"By making a copy of a human, I really think we can understand humans, so we need to understand what is human likeness, what is human-like behaviour and human-like reactions."
A crucial element in the functionality of Geminoid F is her ability to take social cues from human eye contact and gaze. She is able to hold eye contact, blink and vary her gaze depending on the situation.
Director of UWA's Robotics and Automation Lab, Professor Thomas Bräunl, agrees that eye contact is important in constructing a versatile, humanoid robot.
"It's very important for the interactions between a robot and a human, that you have gaze following and gesture recognition."
Despite major improvements in technology, Professor Bräunl says creating a seamless, human-like robot is still difficult to achieve.
"As humans we have a very smooth movement, and robotic movement, as most people associate it, is more abrupt," he says.
Perth counselor and psychotherapist Noel Giblett says that having a 'relationship' with a robot would not be healthy.
"If you've got a robot you can program to be a certain way, well that's like trying to get your life all under control; have your life a certain way, have your partner a certain kind," he said.
"That may be the easier road, but it limits your growth... a real relationship is demanding."