Innovation

Humanoid robot Erica to become newscaster on Japanese television

Roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro said the ultimate goal is to give Erica 'independent consciousness.'

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • A lifelike robot named Erica is set to make her television debut as a Japanese newscaster sometime in 2018.
  • Robots, especially those designed to look human, are stepping into more and more complex jobs that deal with human interaction.

A humanoid robot named Erica, designed by roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, will hit the small screen as a television newscaster in Japan this year, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

Erica is designed to look like a young Japanese woman. On the air, Erica will read news briefings that are put together by humans. Erica has conversational speech capabilities, and can determine when someone is asking her a question, but it hasn't yet been announced if she will perform interviews.

Ishiguro's efforts to get Erica on the air began back in 2014. At the time, he was quoted as saying: "We're going to replace one of the newscasters with the android." However, it's not clear if Erica will be taking the job of a human newscaster.

SEE: Hiring kit: Robotics engineer (Tech Pro Research)

Erica's development was funded by JST Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology ( ERATO), a research initiative started by the Japanese Science and Technology Agency. Universities in both Osaka and Kyoto are working on the project, the Daily Mail reported.

The robot can move her face and make small expressions, but she can't move her arms. According to the Daily Mail, Erica uses infrared sensors and face recognition technology to track humans in a room and figure out who may be asking her a question.

The chief architect behind Erica is Dylan Glas. In a Guardian interview, Glas said that Erica has "the most amazing speech synthesis system that I've encountered." Erica can also tell jokes, but they aren't that funny. For example: "Why did the robot go back to robot school? Because her skills were getting rusty."

And, while she's very much a robot, Ishiguro said that he believes Erica "has a soul," in that same Guardian interview.

Other robots have also tried jumping into the workforce in human-facing jobs. A robot named Fabio was recently fired from a Scottish grocery store for creeping out the customers. It remains to be seen if Erica will suffer the same fate.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/RTimages

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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