31 October 2017

ROBOTS AND OUR FUTURE LIFE BY PROFESSOR HIROSHI ISHIGURO

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The Faculty of Engineering (FE) at Notre Dame University- Louaize (NDU), in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan in Lebanon, was honored to host Hiroshi Ishiguro, Japanese robotics expert and professor, who literally made a copy of himself. Ishiguro is the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, Department of Systems Innovation in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University, Japan.

This conference was attended by the Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon Mr. Matahiro Yamaguchi, NDU President Fr. Pierre Najem, H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui, Vice-President for Academic Affairs Dr. Elie Badr, FE Dean, Dr. Michel Hayek, and a host of technology experts.  

Chairperson of the Mechanical Engineering Department Dr. Najib Metni welcomed the audience and gave an overview of Professor Ishiguro’s latest work. Dr. Metni asked, “How can we define our emotions up until redefining beauty?” For his part, Fr. Najem stressed the importance of science and knowledge.

For his part, Ishiguro focused on the development of humanoid robot with lifelike appearance, communications, and visible behavior, such as facial movements.

He talked about the development of robots that can autonomously dialogue with people even in a general living environment. All of the dialog systems currently developed are created by studying the manner of communication between people and robots from different aspects.

For example, different ways in which dialog systems will be in highly required in the future include speech recognition technology, chat dialogue technology, machine translation technology, etc.

Ishiguro went on to describe his vision of a collaborative future in which interactive robots and humans interact in daily situations, such as at a train station.

“Humans have brains that recognize humans, so the ideal interfaces for humans are humanoids,” he said.

While Ishiguro is known for working on humanlike robots, he has also found that less-humanoid designs can also be useful. He said, “Recognition based on imagination — with a neutral, roughly humanoid appearance and humanlike voice, the robot activates the user’s imagination.” Telenoid is a Teleoperated Robot that activates user’s imagination.  

Tests in nursing homes found that the elderly were less nervous, and people with dementia were less nervous and could speak more normally around more abstract androids.

The Hugvie, a stuffed doll with a smartphone holder, reduced stress. “We tested saliva and blood and found reduced cortisol significantly versus just a voice on a cellphone,” Ishiguro said.

“Two modalities is minimum — voice, tactile, smell, appearance — we should consider different combinations,” he added. Rowdy schoolchildren were given Hugvies playing their parents’ voices, and they became more orderly.

As Ishiguro and his teams continue to develop more humanoid robots, we will wait to see our android replicas.

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