Growing up with parents who were both major Star Wars and Star Trek fans I have been exposed to the world of science fiction since I was extremely young. Within the realms of sci-fi, one major thematic element to offset it from reality is the presence of machines functioning in a manner similar to humans. From the stiff, mechanical movements of C-3PO to the fluid human-like grace of the android Data, robots have existed as a marker for the undefined “future.” Well, this future is much closer than many believe it to be.
This video is several years old now and the project has come a long way since then, but it is still one of the best introductory examples of AIST’s Cybernetic Human HRP-4C “Miim.”
Although Miim is still a work in progress, she is able to perform basic song and dance as seen in the video. In addition, Miim runs on a basic form of artificial intelligence to respond to human verbal input and can even generate facial expressions to fit the mood of the conversation. Also, she is capable of walking smoothly based on the mathematical algorithms presented at the 2010 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Taipei, Taiwan. Since then, the HRP-C model has been further refined, and versions of her shell as well as operating system have been incorporated into a number of practices, including the dentistry field where the robots are able to react to stimuli such as pain or a gag reflex while being able to communicate where the pain is experienced. Additionally, the dentistry models are capable of basic human functions such as coughing, sneezing, moving their tongue, attempting to talk with tools in their mouth, etc.
Although their artificial intelligence modules are not fully developed yet, mankind is faced with the inevitability of having to deal with a question it has long avoided. As people are already having a hard time dealing with the fact that the internet is becoming as much a reality as the physical world, how will society react to the introduction of an artificial person? Will they be integrated into society as full citizens or will these machines fully capable of thought and feeling be oppressed, enslaved, and/or mistreated simply because they are not organic? Unfortunately only time will tell, but until then humanity must prepare itself mentally for these ethical questions which will be faced in the very near future.