Sunday, March 26, 2006

Article : Humanoids With Attitude

Japan Embraces New Generation of Robots

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page A01

TOKYO - Ms. Saya, a perky receptionist in a smart canary-yellow suit, beamed a smile from behind the "May I Help You?" sign on her desk, offering greetings and answering questions posed by visitors at a local university. But when she failed to welcome a workman who had just walked by, a professor stormed up to Saya and dished out a harsh reprimand.

"You're so stupid!" said the professor, Hiroshi Kobayashi, towering over her desk.

"Eh?" she responded, her face wrinkling into a scowl. "I tell you, I am not stupid!"

Truth is, Saya isn't even human. But in a country where robots are changing the way people live, work, play and even love, that doesn't stop Saya the cyber-receptionist from defending herself from men who are out of line. With voice recognition technology allowing 700 verbal responses and an almost infinite number of facial expressions from joy to despair, surprise to rage, Saya may not be biological -- but she is nobody's fool.

"I almost feel like she's a real person," said Kobayashi, an associate professor at the Tokyo University of Science and Saya's inventor. Having worked at the university for almost two years now, she's an old hand at her job. "She has a temper . . . and she sometimes makes mistakes, especially when she has low energy," the professor said.

Full Story at The Washington Post


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