Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Love in the time of robots" - Alex Mar

This is her first piece in Wired - it's rather personal. Here's an excerpt:
"Around the same time as the department store display, Ishi­guro managed to use the Geminoid F to generate a bond between two humans. Tettchan, then a game designer based in Tokyo, was recently divorced when he met Ishi­guro in 2012, and he mentioned that he was curious about the possibility of a romance with a longtime friend named Miki. Ishi­guro invited them both to his research institute in Nara, where he’d asked his students to have a female android ready for teleoperation.

A Geminoid F

He placed Tettchan at the teleoperation desk and closed the door; he took Miki into the other room to meet the Geminoid F. Then he invited Tettchan (who was listening in) to talk to him and Miki through the robot. As Tettchan spoke, his voice computer-­altered to sound female, the android’s lips moved in sync with his words, the tilt of her head and her long human hair in rhythm with his own movements. “It’s like a real female,” Ishi­guro told Miki, enjoying himself. “This is not Tettchan, this is a new woman, really cute and beautiful.”

And so they “played,” making small talk, Tettchan trying out his new female incarnation. He made Miki and Ishiguro laugh, and watching Miki’s face through the monitor, he could see a change. That was when Ishi­guro, knowing Tettchan’s complicated feelings for Miki, said to her, “OK, you should kiss her.” And Miki, looking hesitant, leaned in toward the android—the android inhabited by Tettchan—and kissed it on the cheek. The feeling, Tettchan said, was “like thunder.” Any boundary between them suddenly vanished.

Not long afterward, Tettchan and Miki decided to live together. Tettchan is still not exactly sure how Ishi­guro’s machine worked on them, but he remains convinced that it made them into a couple."

Here's the latest tech from Ishiguro's lab: Erica.

Hiroshi Ishiguro and Erica
"After this story was reported, Hiroshi Ishi­guro unveiled his “most beautiful woman” android, named Erica, at Tokyo’s Miraikan science museum. It operates autonomously, parsing human speech and using neural network technology to fashion replies. Erica models are currently being used for human-robot interaction research in three universities in Japan."
The dream of the walking, talking android is still far away. Current research - as the article suggests - is focused on how individuals react to a humanlike android in social situations. The 'uncanny valley' seems to be an effect whereby the android's overly-crude approximations to ordinary human micro- movements and micro-expressions triggers endless subtle error-flagging alerts in our predictive-processing brain circuitry.

It seems that Ishiguro, who has studied the details intently, would claim that his team has now got the fine-grained interaction style right, that his androids no longer violate our subconscious model-based expectations.

So now it gets interesting.

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