Wonderful Engineering

Erica The AI Robot Appears To Have A Soul

Erica, a lifelike robot in Japan, is expected to become a TV anchor very soon. The robot which has the most advanced artificial speech system in her will start working as an anchor in April. The creator of Erica, Hiroshi Ishiguro, said that the robot is warm and caring and might develop an ‘independent consciousness’ soon. Erica is described to be so realistic that she could be having a soul of her own.

The details of her new job have not been shared yet but according to Dr Ishiguro, she will be reading news on the TV which will be put together by humans. Dr Ishiguro is the director of Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University said, “We’re going to replace one of the newscasters with the android.” He said he has been trying since 2014 to get his robot on air. Erica’s voice may also be used in autonomous vehicles to talk to passengers.

Erica was developed from one of the highest-funded science projects in Japan. She cannot move her arms, however, she has 14 infra-red sensors and facial recognition technology using which she can track people in the room. She can also work out where the voice is coming from and who is asking her a question.

Erica’s designer Dr Dylan Glas told that the robot has also learned to tell jokes. Telling about the jokes he said, “although they’re not exactly side-splitters.” He added, “What we really want to do is have a robot which can think and act and do everything completely on its own.”

Dr Ishiguro revealed another ultra-realistic robot anchor called Kodomoroid and Otonaroid at Tokyo museum in 2014. So, this is not the first time that he has created a newsreader robot. He said that he hopes these robots will be useful to conduct research on how people interact with the AI robots. He told the reporters, “Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human. Examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking.”

During a demonstration, the robot moved her lips, twitched her eyebrows, blinked and moved her head from side-to-side. It is powered by compressed air and servomotors. The robot was sitting but cannot move hands. Dr Ishiguro said that the speech can be in the form of input by text which gives them perfect articulation.

Back in 2015, the first TV anchor robot, Xiaoice, was created by Microsoft who was used to read China’a Morning News. Xiaoice used deep learning techniques through Smart Cloud and Big Data and gave weather reports during the live broadcast. This project was a collaboration between Microsoft Applications & Services Group East Asia and Shanghai Media Group (SMG) TV News Centre.