Japan’s robot teacher calls roll, smiles and scolds, drawing laughter from students with her eerily lifelike face. But the developer says it’s not about to replace human instructors.
Unlike more mechanical-looking robots like Honda Motor Co.‘s Asimo, the robot teacher, called Saya, can express six basic emotions — surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, sadness — because its rubber skin is being pulled from the back with motors and wiring around the eyes and the mouth.
In a demonstration, the robot’s mouth popped open, its eyes widened and eyebrows arched to appear surprised. Saya pulled back on its lips to make a smile, and said simple preprogrammed phrases such as “Thank you,” while its lips moved, to express pleasure.
Kobayashi says Saya is just meant to help people and warns against getting hopes up too high for its possibilities.
“The robot has no intelligence. It has no ability to learn. It has no identity,” he said. “It is just a tool.”
But would he create a robot in human form, say, a fantasy friend with movie-star looks?
“Sure,” he says, “If you’re willing to pay.”
That made-to-order robot will cost about 5 million yen ($51,000), he said.
However, whether humanity will do the right thing or the wrong thing remains to be seen. Just remember, all of this has happened before and will happen again. Of course, I might not mind the “will happen again” part if they look like this.