Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kenji the Robot

In other robot apocalypse news, back in March  Toshiba Akimu Robotic Research Institute was working on their latest project.  A third generation humanoid robot named Kenji, who's main goal is to emulate human emotions including love.  A flaw in its programming has turned the project for the worst. 

“Initially, we were thrilled to see a bit of our soul come alive in this so called ‘machine,’” said Dr. Akito Takahashi, the principal investigator on the project. “This was really the final step for us in one of the fundamentals of the singularity.”

"Kenji was part of an experiment involving several robots loaded with custom software designed to let them react emotionally to external stimuli. After some limited environmental conditioning, Kenji first demonstrated love by bonding with a a stuffed doll in his enclosure, which he would embrace for hours at a time. He would then make simple, but insistent, inquiries about the doll if it were out of sight. Researchers attributed this behavior to his programmed qualities of devotion and empathy and called the experiment a success."

And as if coming straight out of sci-fi film the experiments turned for the worst.

"The trouble all started when a young female intern began to spend several hours each day with Kenji, testing his systems and loading new software routines. When it came time to leave one evening, however, Kenji refused to let her out of his lab enclosure and used his bulky mechanical body to block her exit and hug her repeatedly. The intern was only able to escape after she had frantically phoned two senior staff members to come and temporarily de-activate Kenji."

And if that didn't make you wet your trousers this will "Ever since that incident, each time Kenji is re-activated, he instantaneously bonds with the first technician to meet his gaze and rushes to embrace them with his two 100kg hydraulic arms. It doesn’t help that Kenji uses only pre-recorded dog and cat noises to communicate and is able to vocalize his love through a 20 watt speaker in his chest."

Since then Kenji has now deactivated but Dr. Takahashi is optimistic that he will one day succeed where Kenji had failed. 

“This is only a minor setback. I have full faith that we will one day live side by side with, and eventually love and be loved by, robots,”

Here's another Toshiba robot, don't be fooled by its cuteness

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