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Androids at China's Robot Expo 80

eldavojohn writes "China's 2006 Robot Expo has wrapped up. Even though there is little information on it online, there has been much attention given to Zou Renti's android. It seems that everyone cool is making androids of themselves these days. There's a decent article on the state of androids in Japan but unfortunately, the concentration isn't on functionality, it's on fooling the humans the robot interacts with: "The key to a successful android, according to Dr. Ishiguro, is both very humanlike appearance and behaviour. One of his early android creations was cast from his then four-year-old daughter. While it looked like her, it had few actuators and its dull facial expressions and jerky movements proved so uncanny that the girl later refused to go to her father's lab because her scary robot double was lurking there." The latest robot he's built has 42 actuators, allowing it to wow many spectators at the expo. I wonder how much longer it will be before we see Blade-Runner-like cases on the evening news?"
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Androids at China's Robot Expo

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  • I for one welcome our andro... This is getting old. *shrugs and walks away*
    • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:46PM (#16444271)
      I welcome our androids who will replace those who think this is getting old, shrugs and walks away. :P
    • ...has 42* actuators...
      Well.. Blade-Runner-like cases or RoboCop-alikes, I think the world is trying too much to mimic the Science-Ficion books.
      Why too much"? For example, computer software as we know it (take windows, linux, office, autocad, matlab, catia whatever example) doesn't match at all the vision of the all-problems-solver computers in science fiction books.
      I have a strong feeling that androids are also not supposed to be like us, as opposed to what SF belived.

      Maybe the HUGE difference betwee
      • by bhima ( 46039 )
        I'd take a 2 or 3 cubic meter box that was pink and had warts... if it could cook and clean the dishes.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
        I have a strong feeling that androids are also not supposed to be like us, as opposed to what SF belived.

        If you take notice of what's happening in the east, they are trying to make their bots more and more humanlike. I think that's useful in a human interaction role, e.g. an automated cashier at a store or a personal all-purpose android. Of course it's not useful for very purpose-built robots, especially for the military where insect-like bots are much more useful than bipedal mechas or industrial robots wh
        • "Aesthetics and marketing are important for selling these things, non-geeks/idiots will buy an iPod over something that offers more functionality at a lower price because the iPod looks more appealing and is made by a brand they know."

          fixed that for you
      • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        I'm waiting for the 42 gigapixel security camera that can zoom in from across the room in a reflection so you can see what some guy with sunglasses is reading by enhancing the reflection you see in his glasses.
        • by thc69 ( 98798 )
          You watch a lot of CSI, don't you?

          No, wait, that would be if the reflection was in the guy's retina...
    • Don't say that! It wasn't funny this time, but it will be funny again!
    • I'd have thought this was the obligatory post: It's too bad she won't live ... ... but then again, who does?
  • Do they obey the laws of robotics? Or is the terminator just around the corner?
    • The US army already has robots that break the laws of robotics. Their armed drones happily shoot at things.

      Of course, the laws of robotics will probably do more harm than good with more advanced robots anyway. I've heard Servotron . . . . . .
      • The US army already has robots that break the laws of robotics. Their armed drones happily shoot at things.

        An armed "drone" doesn't do anything without being commanded to. It has no independent decisionmaking capabilities. Hence the name drone.

        The "laws" apply to AIs, not machines.

        • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
          What qualifies as an AI? Does the automated targeting system of a Patriot missile battery count?
        • by Trogre ( 513942 )
          What's interesting is that if you leave your 3-laws-safe HomeMakerRobot(tm)(patent applied for) at home and go off to work for the day having forgotten to give it any commands, there's nothing stopping it from killing your pets and trashing your house if it thinks your environment is unsafe.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 )
      How would you program the laws of robotics?

      That seems very hard because they are arbitrary/relative in every situation.

      Regularly, you wouldn't pound on a guy's chest. But if they meant to save humans in trouble, they'd have to give the heimlich manuever to a choking man and CPR to a man pulled out of the pool and not breathing - both acts which can break ribs, etcetera - thus being acts they can't perform lightly.
    • The laws were made flawed to create interesting scenarios for novels. Nobody wants to read a book where nothing bad or challenging to the intellect happens.
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:27PM (#16444181) Journal
    Anyone else wondering what use this will be to "copy" people, when we can hardly even make robot walk let alone more these days?
    • Your boss can be in the office in more than just spirit nowadays.

      Hook up electronic senses (webcam mic and speaker) and he can be on the golfcourse and in the office at the same time.
      • by FLEB ( 312391 )
        Yeah, but all he's doing is thrashing about wildly and trashing his office. He's really got to remember to turn off the motion sensor when he's out on the course.
    • From TFA: "Robots are information media, especially humanoid robots. Their main role in our future is to interact naturally with people."

      put in an "also" and replace "Their main role" with "One of their roles". Now you've got an almost certain truth.

      • A good story teller can out compete the tv anytime.

      • A robot is already better than a sign (but also (much) more expensive.)

      • A robot can lie as well as it can tell the truth, (most) humans can't.

      P.S. What does a wife cost in China these days?

    • Anyone else wondering what use this will be to "copy" people, when we can hardly even make robot walk let alone more these days?

      Because this is Slashdot. While it might be fun to make android copies of Grace Park using Lego Mindstorms, those hard bricks, 90 degree angles and pointed corners make playing with her not fun. Not to mention the lube keeps shorting the damned thing out.

      Or so people tell me.

  • The most uncanny thing about these is that, every time I see a new one in the news, the skin looks better and better. That aspect of realism is the most striking, I wonder if this is driven by the prosthetics industry?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrsam ( 12205 )
      the skin looks better and better. That aspect of realism is the most striking, I wonder if this is driven by the prosthetics industry?

      Oh, please. You must be an impostor around here. Any true geek would tell you that it's the porn industry that's... err... behind it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Skin realism is, I should think, less important for making an android comfortable to interact with than personality realism. To take examples from science fiction, think about Mr Million in Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus [] and Anson Guthrie in Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars [] . Both are downloaded personalities of real people, and even though they are encased in ugly battleship gray, the other characters understandably react to them as real human beings because of their personalities.

      Meanwhile, e

      • I would think you need both AI and the materials science.
      • "To take examples from science fiction"

        That just doesn't work in so many ways :p *waves his lightsaber around and then flies off at warp 10 in his shuttle*

        Bear in mind that sci-fi is generally written by one person, who is usually a geek, and who may have different ideas of what they're comfortable around than the rest of the population. A geek may be comfortable talking to a gunmetal-grey box, but your average .. person.. probably won't be. A lot of people don't even like using phones.
    • I'd have to assume so. There are very few uses for realistic plastic skin.
    • IIRC, the droids have to be enveloped in real skin otherwise they cannot travel through time.
  • ...available of this? Have been looking on Youtube, nothing there yet. Suppose there must be someone who has some action footage of this doll? Furthermore, very nice and indeed the skin looks very realistic on the pictures. It looks much like the Hanson Robotics [] skins which is/are used for the Albert Hubo [] robot.
  • a massive neural network (IMHO).
    • by joto ( 134244 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @01:46PM (#16444615)
      Unfortunately, it isn't true. People with a clue has built massive neural networks before. They didn't magically become intelligent.
      • by cartel ( 845256 )

        They didn't magically become intelligent.

        Of course not...and why should they have by themselves? Neither will a computer function without an operating system.

        I just think that a massive neural network would be a critical component of any artificially intelligent android. It would also, of course, require the correct topologies, proper algorithms, a more adequate understanding of the human brain (and then probably a model of that), massive computing power (quantum computer)?

        What do you think?

        • by joto ( 134244 )

          I think that with all that other stuff you mention (including stuff that we don't have, and don't know how to get, i.e. proper algorithms), it would be misleading to label "a massive neural network" as "the key".

          The truth is, if we knew what "the key" was, we'd be a lot closer to creating AI than we currently are. As it is, we can hypothetize that it is proper algorithms, a massive neural network, or a lot of other things. In reality we haven't got a clue. In particular, labelling something we already hav

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          OK, I know where people get this, and this sort of thing keeps flowing around, so maybe I can help, just this once.

          IAAAIR. (I am an artificial intelligence researcher).

          First: neural networks do not, in the general sense, run programs. They get trained to execute what basically amounts to mathematical functions. One function-crunch per cycle, roughly. (I'm vastly simplifying here, but the main point is that neural networks are not, as currently implemented, general-purpose computing devices).

          The b
          • by jqstm ( 703262 )
            Even so, let's say that you build a neural network which does The Right Thing(tm); how do you know it's intelligent?

            How do we know that humans are intelligent? Couldn't we apply the same standards to determine if a candidate AI is intelligent? We don't entirely understand how the human brain works, yet we regard ourselves as intelligent.

            A neural network is neither necessary nor sufficient for intelligence, but biological neural networks are the only functioning intelligent entities we know of. Seems

        • I think the easiest way to make another intelligence is to have a kid.

          After that, the next most easy is to genetically engineer some animal to have more intelligence.

          Finally, after all of that, is to make it from scratch with wires and silicon and so on.
    • by jftitan ( 736933 )
      You are all wrong... The key to successful AI is the INTERNET!

      Yes, when I ask my android where would I find the answer to 42... its response should be "The Internet! oh and porn! would you like to see another Hot Lezbo Teen flick?"

      I'm looking to bake a cake? response "Fruit cakes are good, but why not buy one online... here is a nice one, Barry's Hot Fruit Cakes, it comes from Asylum Ridge... buy now?"
  • by Onnimikki ( 63071 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:54PM (#16444325) Homepage
    I was at the expo, and just got back from China today. One of the androids disappeared during the expo. Why? Supposedly, because the president of China wasn't too happy about the android looking like a popular politician.

    Regardless, these androids are carnival mannequins with better fake skin. They are also victims of the "Uncanny Valley []". At worst they look cheap, at best they're creepy. I got a picture taken with one []. The developers refer to it as a "lover robot" and it would move its mouth while piping a Celine Dion song through a speaker. They spent way too much time adding fake nipples and revealing clothing.

    The product brochure by the "Beijing Yuanda Superman Robot Science A Company of Limited Liability []" states:

    "The lover robots like the real beautiful woman and handsome guy are primarily for family collection and appreciation. This is a huge market, for instance, recently Japanese will spend about 27 billion yuan on person-like robots each year, and the global consumption on such commodity is about 500 billion yuan. Comparing with these unmovable puppets, the lover robots are more realistic, charming, intimate, lovely, sexy and attractive."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Merovign ( 557032 )

      I don't think you CAN spend too much time on nipples and revealing clothing.

      And I'm not kidding - you want to make high-brow robots? Make and sell sexbots first.

      Once you're a billionaire, you can make that chess partner and Jupiter Probe Pilot.

      Science history will remember you for the AI work, but sexbots will pay for it.

      Who wants to take bets on the first lawsuit over a celebrity replica sexbot?
    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      In case anyone's wondering, those japanese "robots" they're talking about are 90% these [] (NSFW and Paedobear approved).
    • Actually, I like the cooking robot better. I have seen the photo of the robot in some Chinese forum. It was released in a few days ago at the same time as the annual tradeshow in Guangzhou. It looks like a large fridge with two arms. It can do stir fried etc. It has been programmed to cook hundreds of local dishes. While it may not be that advanced in terms of robotics, the idea is just so cool. I would definitely try that out if there is a robot theme restaurant. In the longer run, it can actually
    • That 'limited liability' will no doubt come in handy when they start throwing old people down the stairs and hiding their medicine.

      The link to the pictures of the robots seems to be wrong, or has it moved?
  • unfortunately, the concentration isn't on functionality, it's on fooling the humans the robot interacts with

    That's the whole point of those robots. They are neither especially smart or revolutionary. They are very high tech puppies with latex skin, designed to explore our perceptions of what is real and what is not.

    • by suv4x4 ( 956391 )

      Nice, this will spoon a bunch of replies laughing at me for taping the wrong world.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:05PM (#16444735) Homepage

    The important site to look at is Robots Dreams [], which covers Japanese robotics work. The little humanoid robots at the $1000 level are getting quite good mechanically. The best ones now have maybe 70% of the hardware functionality of Asimo at under 1% of the cost. They're typically remote controlled, but, because they have more degrees of freedom than a human can control with an R/C controller, preprogrammed movements were added. That wasn't good enough, so some hobbyists have added gyros and balance reflexes. Now it starts to get serious.

    The hobbyists are doing some very good work. There are competitions and battles for these things. Obstacle courses which look like something from Army basic training. The battles aren't just banging away like Robot Wars; these machines can execute judo throws.

    More to the point, the hobbyists are making progress much faster than the academic robotics people ever did. There are more of them, enough to drive a market for mass-produced parts. That makes it easier to build the things.

    If you took the best kit humanoid available (which costs about $1200), added a 6DOF inertial unit (a few hundred dollars and getting cheaper every year), a stereo vision system (or even a SwissRanger [] minature LIDAR), better force sensors in the feet and hands, and a WiFi link, you'd have ASIMO-level capability for a few thousand dollars. We'll probably see that within two years, and probably at a low price point.

    Then it's all software. And there's lots of theory out there just waiting to be used. This is going to be fun.

    • THe work that you shoot down so smugly for the academics is the basis of what is going into the hobbyists. What I always find funny is that so many folks want to shoot down the pioneers that do the hard work (determining HOW to do things), while speaking well of those who simply mimic and grab the best ideas out there. You post is akin to what I read on the privatization occuring in space today. Many here (and in the press as well as political circles) will claim that NASA and Russia has done so little WRT
      • by Animats ( 122034 )

        The work that you shoot down so smugly for the academics is the basis of what is going into the hobbyists.

        Actually, I'm more from the academic side. The US academic world is great at theory but terrible at bending metal. In fields where you need a few technicians per engineer, US academia does not cope well. (Except, historically, in high-energy physics, which does have several technicians per engineer, and in the biological sciences, which inherit the tradition of several flunkies per doctor.) You do

    • Don't forget power. All of these devices are going to need massive batteries to be able to perform any real work for any amount of time. There is a reason autonomous robots like the Asimo have barrel chests or backpack-like protuberances. This will improve as time goes on, but it is a real restricting factor to the development of true androids.
  • But... does it have a positronic brain?

    (and can it run Linux? And imagine a Beowulf cluster of those!)
  • Would these perhaps be the "China-bots" once mentioned in a sketch by "Arnold Schwarzenegger" on Late Night with Conan O'Brian? :D

    Conan: Arnold what do you think about building a fence on the U.S-Mexican border?

    Arnold: Conan, what we really need to do is build a fence around the "future"? Yes, the future Conan. You see in the future the U.S is overrun by robot forms of Chinese and Mexicans called "China-bots" and "Mexi-borgs". See Conan, so the future is what we need to worry about. What you need to

  • When we can develop a Johnny 5. He was just too cool! And had a cool catch phrase... "Johnny 5 is alive!" Unfotunately he wasn't intelligent enough to understand pig latin.
  • When they can make one that can navigate flights of real world stairs and do it consistently and without setup or practice runs, THEN I'll be impressed.


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