PEOPLE BOTS

Some robots look and behave like real human beings. They are called “humanoids.” By looking at the movements and actions of real people in real experiences, the developers of humanoids make their robots ultra-realistic.

Since the 1970s, the Japanese have been leaders in this industry. In 1972, researchers at Waseda University in Japan completed the WABOT-1, the first full-scale android. It had sensors, could walk with legs, and grip objects with its hands. This “vision” system allowed the makers of the bot to measure and record its actions. It was even able to converse in basic Japanese. In 1984, they made WABOT-2, which had ten fingers and two feet, and could read music!

Japanese company Honda, which makes cars, built another humanoid in the 1980s. They wanted to make their robot walk everywhere. After trying and testing different prototypes of a moving, two-legged robot, Honda created a prototype robot called ASIMO. (That stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.) In Japan, the word “asi” means leg in English. The “mo” in the word stands for “mobility.”

Another humanoid named Sofia was built in 2016 using artificial intelligence. The inventor created the robot to look like a combination of the inventor’s wife, Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, and the famous actress Audrey Hepburn. As a result, Sofia had the most human appearance and gestures of any humanoid built before her. Manufactured by Hanson Robotics, Sofia has a robot face created with a patented material called Frubber®, a special nanotech skin that works just like real human skin. 

Like many humanoids, Sophia can hold simple conversations, sing, and learn from what she hears and speaks. Speech recognition helps Sophia and other humanoids “get smarter over time.” Sophia is the perfect bot companion for the elderly at nursing homes. She is constantly working to mimic social behavior and create an emotional connection with humans.

Imagine Sue in her laboratory. What sort of humanoid would she create? What would she name it? Would Sue build a bot best buddy? What could be better than Stu?