We have harped about robots with various functions, ranging from firefighting to waiting. But this time around, the robotic technology espouses human-likeness in favor of efficiency, and the result is Aiko Chihira, a polite job receptionist who can make gentle conversations. In terms of practicality, Chihira is designed as one those humanoid robots that can give the customer the directions inside Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store. As for ‘her’ human-like demeanor, Chihira can not only talk in Japanese, but also blink and more importantly enunciate (by moving her lips) during talking.
Developed by the collaborative effort of Toshiba engineers and researchers at Osaka University Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, the humanoid contraption has its range of expressions and motional attributes powered by 43 internal motors. However Hitoshi Tokuda, an official from Toshiba’s business development division, wants more language skills from the store’s newest employee (who ‘started’ from 20th April) –
It would be good if we can have her provide guidance, or recommend various things in Chinese…People can be looking around and think, ‘Oh if Aiko is around, she can speak Chinese’. That’s what I hope will happen.
And since we brought up the scope of language, Chihira is also well versed in Japanese sign language, thus hinting at the conscientious side of affairs beyond just the gimmick factor. More interestingly, the application of robotics in Japan is not just limited to receptionists – as is evident from progressive healthcare robots (like Baymax) that are designed to take care of elderly people.
Watch the advanced Aiko Chihira in action –