One Small Step for Robots

July 13, 2011

Brit Trogen

If you pay very close attention, it seems clear that we're drawing closer to a future filled with human-like robots. Not because a rogue lab somewhere is ignoring the warnings of every science fiction movie ever made and building one in its entirety... but because piece by piece, in labs all around the world, scientists are independently perfecting all the bits we'd need to make them a reality.


There's the stair-climbing bot; the soccer playing bot; various advances in AI; the ever improving robotic hand; and don't even get me started on the sex bot. With every passing day there's a new advance in some region of robotic development. Though I have to admit they're rarely as creepy as this one...


The issue of creating artificial voices has previously been addressed using software, but our friends in Japan, never satisfied with the status quo, are taking things several steps further with the creation of the most accurate robot mouth ever made. It has artificial vocal chords, lips, a resonance tube, an air pump to simulate the flow of air through the human mouth, and I think skeeziest of all, a nasal cavity complete with weirdly sculpted nose. If you're really up on your robot news, you may remember this model when it was originally introduced; back then it was only capable of "moaning." Oh, how far we've come.



What you're watching is the mouth's performance of a Japanese children's song, "KagomeKagome." And while it obviously still has a way to go before it will be clearly articulating "Yes, Master!" in the body of our future servants, keep in mind that this is not a computerized voice, but air flow through the chamber. The robot also uses feedback from its microphone to self correct the sound of its voice, to make it sound more like that of a real human.


That settles it: the creepy robot award for this week goes to Kagome mouth! Thanks again, Japan. I was starting to get a little too comfortable.



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