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Actroid-F Robot Gets A Brother And An Eye Implant
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Actroid-F Robot Gets A Brother And An Eye Implant

AIST has developed a male version of its android robot Actroid-F, which was first shown to the public last year. These human-like robots imitate the movements of the people they are watching, and are currently being placed as observers in hospitals, to see how patients feel in their presence.

"We often get asked why we made a female robot, so we decided to make a male version as well. Mechanically, the two robots are the same, and if you take the wigs off, the faces are the same, too. We've created the male appearance using a wig and cosmetics. We think this makes Actroid-F a good test platform for comparing the impressions made by male and female robots."

Actroid is a series of robots developed by Kokoro. These robots have a very human-like appearance and range of motions, yet they have only 12 degrees of freedom, mostly in the face. This feature makes the Actroid system much smaller and lighter than ordinary robot systems. Now, by placing cameras in the retinas of the robots, AIST has enabled the robot to direct its line of sight toward a subject.

"Because these robots look human, they have a very strong presence. I think their psychological impact on people is much bigger than with robots that are simply shaped like people, or animal-shaped robots. When this robot went to a hospital for a month during a trial, we felt lonely, as if someone had moved out. Another factor is the sense of immersion this robot gives. When it imitates your movements, you gradually feel it's become your alter ego. When the robot's being photographed, you feel as if you're being photographed. You don't get that kind of feeling of togetherness with other robots."

"It's often said that the more human a robot looks, the more small differences make people feel uneasy. In our research, when we use this robot in the field, we check that it matches its surroundings and doesn't look out of place. When we tested the robot in a hospital, we asked 70 subjects if having an android there made them feel uneasy. Only 3 or 4 people said they didn't like having it around, and overall, quite a lot of people said they felt this robot itself had an acceptable presence."

From now on, as well as continuing the hospital trial, AIST would like to see if this robot could be helpful in other ways; for example, talking with elderly people to help prevent mental decline, and improving communication skills among children with developmental disorders.

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