Robots which listen, understand and entertain us

In most of the movies with robots as main characters, they are able to understand the human mind to best interact with mankind and, maybe, to feel emotions like us. Some international companies are working to make this kind of scene come true. RoboThespian, from Engineered Arts, was born for this purpose.


RoboThespian is the most known robot of the company. It has great communication skills, feature that allows it to be used in museums and science centers. It was born as a “robotic actor”, but now its main task is to talk with people, in an entertaining way. It is fascinating because of  the multitude of expressions that he can do, which can be different from one situation to another. RoboThespian has two little screens as eyes, so it can improve its eye contact with its interlocutor and follow the people in front of it. It is not able to do complex movements and mostly it can’t walk. It has a static position which allows it to be powered by a power source and to receive instructions from a tablet, used by an employee. RoboThespian costs £ 55,000 (about € 78,000) and everyone can buy it to amuse people, because this incredible robot talks and moves like a person does.


If you prefer to talk whit a more human face, SociBot, from Engineered Arts too, can maybe be better. It is not a true humanoid robot, but it’s a robotic head. It hasn’t the body, but only arms and head (it hasn’t arms in its mini version). It has a screen as its face, so it can have different aspects. We can change its characteristics too: we can modify its eyes colour, its skin colour, its mouth’s shape and much more. As RoboThespian do, SociBot is able to follow us with its eyes and, following Engineered Arts statements, it can track the position of more than 12 people at a time. It talks showing emotions, he can understand our expressions and redo them. For SociBot the price is   £ 14,500 (€ 20,500), with touch screen included. It is designed for shopping centres, airports, stations and all the science centers.


The next step?
It’s to combine the extraordinary abilities of RoboThespian and SociBot with a robot which could walk and do more movements. This robot already has its own name: Byrun.

“The ability to move like a human adds to our ability to communicate with humans” Engineered Arts says. With human expressions and movements, the result would be a perfect humanoid robot, like fictitious robots in lots of movies are. Nowadays, Byrun is able to do a lot of simple and difficult exercises, but the final goal, the robot that we dream, is still far away.

Tokyo: the humanoid robot ChihiraAico guides customers in the shopping center

ChihiraAiko, humanoid robot, Credits: Reuters

From April 20, customers who visit a shopping center in Tokyo will be greeted by a particular receptionist . It is a humanoid robot with traits of a Japanese woman of about 32 years.

His name is ChihiraAico, and it is a realistic android robot built by Toshiba and it is able to talk, sing, gesture and cry.

When visitors enter the Mitsukoshi department store in Nihonbashi, the robot is ready to greet in Japanese and guide them to the different floors of the building to find the products they want to buy.

So far, ChihiraAico is programmed to communicate in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, English and Japanese sign language and is designed to promote “effective communication between humans and non-human.”

As explained by Toshiba, the robot has 43 motors that allow it to move and also features technology developed by the robotics Japanese expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor of the Department of Systems Innovation of Osaka University that develops robots for over 20 years.

Ishiguro is a pioneer in his field and, in June of 2014, presented Otonaroid and Kodomoroid -two androids: an adult and a child- at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo.

Toshiba has worked so hard to technology that allows to synchronize the movements of the body of ChihiraAico (lips, jaw and gestures) with his voice. With Ishiguro’s research and technology  will be possible to make further great strides in the field of humanoid robotics.

We chose very realistic appearance and movements, which can be used for the service sector, explains Hitoshi Tokuda, head of marketing for the business development division of Toshiba-. We plan also to extend our technology so that the robot can automatically respond to customer requests. A future application will be to care for older people with dementia.


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