JAPAN: Robots Set to Take Over the World

NADIA ALJOJO WRITES – According to the Pew Research Center, more than 70% of Americans worry about the future of robotics. Based on the results of this survey, few will be enthusiastic to hear that robots are officially one step closer to taking over the world.

Case in point: By April of this year, a robot named Erica is expected to become a news anchor in Japan.

Erica is created to appear 23 years old, has a mixture of Japanese and European features and is fully capable of holding conversations with humans. Erica’s creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, directs the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University in Japan and argues that Erica’s charisma sets her apart from other humanoids. Ishiguro’s ultimate goal, and challenge, is to build intention and desire into Erica to allow her to be emotional and sympathize with human emotions.

Erica has the most advanced artificial speech system in the world, a build that includes infrared sensors, and face recognition technology that allows her to analyze her environment and the people in it. Despite these capabilities, she can’t move her arms or legs. Nevertheless, this shortcoming poses no issue to the task of becoming a news anchor. She can move her neck and shoulders, make a variety of facial expressions, and articulate text perfectly. Such a skill set makes Erica a perfect candidate for Japan’s next news anchor.

The robot revolution is transpiring across the developed world, with the U.S. looking to robotics to replace many manual labor jobs in the coming years. But when it comes to cutting-edge technology in the sphere of humanoids, Japan is in the lead. Although Erica is the first of her kind, Japan is not new to robotic technology.

A hotel near Tokyo, called the Henn-na Hotel (which translates to the Strange Hotel), employs dinosaur robots as receptionists. The hotel opened in March 2017 and has attracted much attention for its staff of 140 robots. The founder of the hotel, Hideo Sawada, claims that the aim of the hotel is to be transformational, efficient, and evolving.

This hotel isn’t the first of its kind. The original Henn-na Hotel opened in July 2015 in Nagasaki, and was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as “the first robot staffed hotel in the world.” Robots are responsible for a variety of positions throughout the hotel, including multilingual receptionists (speaking Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean), porters, and cleaners responsible for vacuuming and window shining. The Henn-na Hotels also use facial recognition to replace keys and have a voice-activated mini robot in each room to act as a concierge and activate appliances on command.

Robotics are quickly changing the way we live and Ishiguro, Erica’s creator, assumes there’s going to be a future full of a massive variety of robots, the same way we have a large variety of cars. The question which arises for many individuals is how far the robot revolution will be taken.

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