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Japan Releases "Employed" Humanoid Robots

Designed to showcase the advancements made in robotics

In late June 2014, scientists at the Japan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation released two lifelike robots. These "humanoids" are part of the highly acclaimed exhibition, "Android: What is Human?" Touted as the most advanced human-like robots ever created, could these two innocent robots be the first of robotic armies highlighted in Hollywood Films?

Designed to showcase the advancements made in robotics, museum curator Hiroshi Ishiguro hopes the exhibition peaks the interest of the general public while simultaneously stretching the possibilities of robot-human interaction. The two robots, lovingly referred to as Kodomoroid and Otonariod, go beyond basic communication levels to create a realistic and intelligent interactions.

The "youngest" of the robots, Kodomoroid, has the appearance of a young child. However, this is where the resemblance ends. Designed to provide real-time news updates from around the world in a variety of languages, Kodomoroid is considered by some to be the strangest news reporter. In a recent "interview" with Kodomoroid, journalists were stunned to hear her dream is to be the host of her own television show. While the world may not be ready for robotic TV show hosts, the remarkable lifelike reactions and vocal range of Kodomoroid makes this dream seem closer to reality than science fiction.

The older of the humanoids, Otonaroid is among the first robots to be "hired" by an institution for more than experimentation purposes. Designed to appear as an adult female, this robot has the pleasure of interacting with visitors. Unlike previous robot-human interactions, Otonaroid operates itself through a complex web of algorithms. Museum visitors may ask her questions and receive detailed responses regarding science-related topics.

While this is impressive, it's the underlining details of these robots that truly mark a first in its industry. Both robots are advertised as being capable of interjecting humor and even confusion during conversations. What's next? Life insurance for robots?

Considering previous humanoid robots featured non-human appearances, these robots are eerily human-like. Realistic skin is supple and soft to the touch while synthetic muscle fibers create a foundation for hyper-realistic movements and facial expressions. Some visitors claim moments of forgetting these robots are not actually humans. In fact, with blinking eyes and pleasant facial expressions, it's not uncommon to begin empathizing with each robot.

The technology required to run these and similar humanoid robots is among the most complex and advanced out of any industry. Mimicking human emotions, and even the simple fluidity of human movement, has taken years of intense research to master. Even though these robots are among the most human-like, there are moments where their artificial intelligence is made clear.

With such advancements, advocacy groups worry this is a step toward robots taking over human duties and employment. While a legitimate concern, especially with the release of self-driving trucks in Germany, Tirias Research founder Jim McGregor suggests the true impact of humanoid robots are at least five decades away from reaching into the lives of everyday people.

Although the humanoid robotics industry has years of research and development ahead of itself to mimic the robots highlighted in Hollywood blockbusters, the release of Kodomoroid and Otonaroid is a giant leap toward a future seen between the covers of science fiction novels.

More Stories By Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is a writer, as well as a tech, social media and environmental enthusiast, living in San Francisco. He is a contributing writer at Forbes, Technorati and The Huffington Post.

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