Sitting before you is a small, limbless, asexual being resembling Casper the Friendly Ghost, smiling and jerking around as it works to manifest a friend for you, who sits a good distance away speaking into a webcam. What’s going on here?
If Japanese robotist Hiroshi Ishiguro could have his way, this little creation, the Telenoid R1, would likely replace instant messaging and webcams altogether, providing a semi-realistic chat experience with friends remotely.
The Telenoid R1 was designed, according to Ishiguro, to resemble neither a male nor a female, maintaining the same lack of distinction between adult or a child, in an effort to present a “blank slate”–though slightly human–which people could use to communicate with friends remotely. “Casper” uses visual stimulus received from a webcam that captures the host’s movements, which are then interpreted into an eerie song-and-dance as the robot plays the part of the individual in their absence.
Somehow, I don’t see this creation ever out-doing plain ol’ video chat.