Avatar and Video Conferencing: will it affect Real Interaction?

By Tom Warner

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, the director of the systems innovation department at Osaka University in Japan, created a robot avatar in 2010 to replace a person in an online conversation. There have been many new versions of this particular robot, but 2010 was the initial debut.

Professor Ishiguro previously moved the world of human-like robotics forward when he created ‘Geminoid HI-2’ which resembled its creator. The robot combined movements in the body and face as well as speech production to mimic whoever was controlling it. A life like appearance, modelled on Ishiguro himself, added to the realism.

This technology moved on to another project lead by Professor Ishiguro called the ‘Telenoid R1’, an android which receives information from a webcam to produce the voice and emotive facial expressions of a human. In the digital age, online communication including e-mail, Facebook and Skype are now the norm. This has been taken a step further by producing a robot to impersonate a human though the use of the internet. While this may seem like an ingenious idea at first, it could actually have some repercussions.

Teleniod R1

Photo Reference: Telenoid R1 was developed by Osaka University and ATR Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory.

Literal human-to-human contact has become rarer and rarer as technology has advanced to let us communicate to someone on the other side of the world. It almost seems that this excellent solution to long distance communication has been applied closer to home, as well as for its original purpose. For example we can now be in an online ‘conversation’ with our next door neighbour, as well as our friend who lives in Australia.

This advancement period still allows for some form of visual, verbal and auditory connection, with services such as Skype, which brought aspects of human interaction to the global audience in 2003. It could be questioned whether having a robot mimic a person is the next step to protecting true conversation, or if it is just pushing us another step back.

BBC Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11493961

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro website: http://www.geminoid.jp/en/index.html

Overview of Telenoid (and image location): http://www.geminoid.jp/projects/kibans/res/Telenoid-resources.html

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