In a secluded room at IRL, a collection of androids is stored and maintained: his hardest workers.
Arranged in this space today, with its blackout curtains, thin corporate carpeting, and shelves cluttered with cables and monitors and an array of wigs, is a pair of his replicas of grown women. The name is a play off (Latin for “twin”), a reminder that their human counterparts exist somewhere in the world.
HRI is a hybrid discipline: part engineering, part AI, part social psychology and cognitive science.
The aim is to analyze and cultivate our evolving relationship with robots.
I will hear him use that word to describe himself——about half a dozen times.Teams of young men shuffle down the long, linoleum-lined hallways in sweatshirts, pace the research rooms in their socks, or hover over laptops in rows, heads down, subsisting mostly on Red Bull, crackers, and Pocky Sticks. As if to underline this fact, a sign by the restrooms reads, “.He is immediately recognizable, looking just as he does in promotional photos from recent years: perfectly mod in slim-fitting black with matching leather backpack and fanny pack.Two girls—both dressed in pale yellow, with child-puffy cheeks, black shoulder-length hair, and bangs—stand opposite each other under fluorescent lights. “Hello.” ¶ The girl repeats the word, quietly, to her robot-self. ¶ Her father feeds her another line: “Let’s play.” The android wiggles its head. Each member of this pair continues making the barely there gestures that serve, through reflex or ruse, as signs of life: Each blinks at regular intervals; each tilts her head from side to side. His daughter looks to him, then back at the android. They have included replicas of a newscaster, an actress, and a fashion model.More precisely: One is a girl, 5 years old; the other is her copy, her android replica. One is processing, in the raw, sensory-overload manner of a human child; the other is performing a series of simple movements made possible by the servomotors installed inside the silicone casing that is its skin. Its mouth begins to open and close slightly, like a dying fish. These androids have made numerous public appearances—in cafés and department stores, singing in malls, performing in a play.Because to re-create human presence we need to know more about ourselves than we do—about the accumulation of cues and micromovements that trigger our empathy, put us at ease, and earn our trust.Someday we may crack the problem of creating artificial general intelligence—a machine brain that can intuitively perform any human intellectual task—but why would we choose to interact with it? Even he must admit that the robot is not entirely believable.In one of these industrial boxes, about 30 students and assistant professors work in a series of near-silent computer pods and observation rooms.They are the same size, one modeled on the other, and they are meeting for the first time. Mostly, though, Ishiguro’s brood of pretty “women” is used for his academic experiments, many of which are conducted at two locations in Japan: the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Nara and the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory on the campus of Osaka University.¶ The girl stares hard into the eyes of her counterpart; its expression is stern and stiff. ¶ A man is videotaping the pair—he is the father of one, creator of the other—and from off-camera he asks, “Would you like to say something? The lab, known as IRL, is embedded within a maze of austere, gray university buildings.