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Teams of young men shuffle down the long, linoleum-lined hallways in sweatshirts, pace the research rooms in their socks, or hover over laptops in rows, heads down, subsisting mostly on Red Bull, crackers, and Pocky Sticks. As if to underline this fact, a sign by the restrooms reads, “.He is immediately recognizable, looking just as he does in promotional photos from recent years: perfectly mod in slim-fitting black with matching leather backpack and fanny pack.He wears tinted hexagonal glasses and styles his jet-black hair into a mop top that swoops across his forehead.This is his department: Ishiguro, 54, is a distinguished professor at one of the country’s top universities, with two labs, partnerships with a dozen private companies throughout Japan, a recent million grant from the government (one of its most generous in science and engineering, he says), and seven secretaries to manage it all.As for me, when I first visit Ishiguro, my situation is this: I am 23 months away from what had seemed like the start of a serious relationship but was not.I am 15 months away from a rebound relationship that lingered too long. Even he must admit that the robot is not entirely believable.
What about its behavior or appearance, its specific facial expressions and minute body movements, do they find alienating? These androids are used to find answers to an ever-growing list of research questions: How important is nonverbal communication to establishing trust between humans (and, therefore, between human and android)?
Love in the Time of Robots Hiroshi Ishiguro builds androids. Eventually, after a few long minutes, the girl’s breathing grows heavier, and she announces, “I am so tired.” Then she bursts into tears.
Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. That night, in a house in the suburbs, her father uploads the footage to his laptop for posterity.
Ishiguro believes that since we’re hardwired to interact with and place our faith in humans, the more humanlike we can make a robot appear, the more open we’ll be to sharing our lives with it.
Toward this end, his teams are pioneering a young field of research called human-robot interaction.