25th June 2014
Realistic androids go on display in Japan
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation has today opened a new permanent exhibition entitled, "Android: What is Human?" where visitors can meet the world's most advanced androids – robots which closely resemble humans.
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known simply as the "Miraikan", is created by Japan's Science and Technology Agency. This new exhibition displays three android robots: the recently developed Kodomoroid and Otonaroid – a child android and an adult female android, respectively – and Telenoid, an android designed without individual human physical features. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading android expert who has been studying the question, "What is human?"
Kodomoroid and Otonaroid will attempt to fill human roles as the world's first android announcer and as the Miraikan's android science communicator, respectively. The organisers of the exhibition claim it will be "a unique and rare event" – providing visitors with the opportunity to communicate with and operate these advanced robots, while shedding light on the attributes of humans in contrast with those of androids.
With soft skin made from special silicon and smooth motion possible by artificial muscle, android robots are becoming increasingly similar to real humans. If an android robot gains the ability to talk and live identically to a human, you may not be able to distinguish between androids and humans. If this comes to pass, what would the word human mean? What is human? This question has been subject to debate since ancient times, and efforts to find an answer are still being made in all fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and art. Building an android can be described as a process of understanding what makes a human look like a human, as Ishiguro explains: