It’s getting tough to find anyone willing to say anything nice about the U.S. news media, no matter which side of the political spectrum the reports are coming from. At least people in other countries can relate to their news program hosts, right? Not so fast, you news junkies in Japan. A news network in that country has reportedly hired (Rented? Purchased? Deployed?) a robot that can allegedly create at least portions of ‘her’ newscast on her own, and even engage in joking banter with her co-hosts. Should the folks at Fox, CNN and the other news networks be nervous?
“Erica” (with a ‘c’ not a ‘k’ – it makes her appear more adult) the news robot is the creation of Hiroshi Ishiguro, the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University. Ishiguro says his humanoid robot is warm and caring and is so realistic, she could “have a soul.” I know … if she acts like she has a soul, why is she getting into the news media? (photos and video here)
“What we really want to do is have a robot which can think and act and do everything completely on its own.”
That statement is from Dr, Dylan Glas, who is described as Erica’s ‘architect’ on the team of robotics and AI experts brought together by the universities of Osaka and Kyoto. Again, why would a robot that can think and act on its own get into the news media? The architect built Erica with 14 infra-red sensors and face recognition technology so that she can track people in a room, and audio recognition capabilities so she identify who asked her a question. However, she has no arms, so she can’t turn a page or click on a monitor. Did they even watch any newscasts before developing her?
Apparently they only watched those morning news shows, because Glas says he equipped Erica with a humor algorithm that allows her to tell jokes, although “’although they’re not exactly side-splitters.” Well, then she’ll fit right in on one of those morning shows.
Ishiguro says Erica is equipped with one of the most advanced speech synthesis systems ever developed and is designed to look and act like a 23-year-old woman. He also refers to himself as her ‘father’. OK, so we’ve got a young, good-looking, articulate female robot whose boss wants her to call him ‘daddy’ but has no arms to slap him if he gets fresh. Hasn’t he heard that they don’t do those things in newsrooms anymore?
Japanese news viewers will find out soon … she’s scheduled to make her debut on a yet-unnamed network in April. If that gig doesn’t work out, she’s also providing the voice for the communications center in autonomous cars made by an unnamed Japanese carmaker.
A robot with no arms reasurring passengers she knows how to steer a car? Did anyone think this through?