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The Man Inside the Machine: Tokyo Museum Unveils Human-Like Robot Guides

Jun 24, 2014 01:35 PM EDT

Japanese scientists at a Tokyo museum unveiled Tuesday the world's first robotic newscaster, an eerily human-like android that can speak clearly and smoothly, for the most part outdoing any human.

Robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, says they will be useful for research on how people interact with robots and on what differentiates the person from the machine.

"Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human," he told reporters, according to the Associated Press, "examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking."

The girlish-looking "Kodomoroid" - a combination of the Japanese word "kodomo" (child) and "android" - delivered news of an earthquake and an FBI raid to a throng of reporters at the Miraikan museum in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Kodomoroid was joined by its fellow robot companions Otonaroid and a minimally designed Telenoid.

With their silicon skin gleaming and using artificial muscles, the robots moved their pink lips in time with a voice-over, even performing human-esque mannerisms such as twitching their eyebrows, blinking and swaying their head from side to side.

They even have a wide range of voices they can use, from a deep, masculine one to a high-pitched girly one. The speech, articulated flawlessly, can be input by text, according to Ishiguro.

Although, like humans, these remote-controlled machines are not perfect. Some technical glitches included their lips not moving while the robot spoke, or remaining silent when asked to introduce itself.

The life-sized robots will be on display in the Miraikan museum, or the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, starting Wednesday, allowing visitors to interact with them.

Robots seem to be going mainstream in Japan. The Japanese Internet company Softbank Corp. recently showcased a robot named Pepper, and will sell it for less than 200,000 yen ($2,000).

"That's the same price as a laptop computer," Ishiguro told the Agence France-Presse (AFP). "It's incredible."

"We will have more and more robots in our lives in the future," he added.

Kodomoroid even said it dreams of having its own television show one day.

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