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Inventor hopes ‘ro-butt’ can show emotion

TOKYO: The mechanical buttocks may look like a new low for the world of Japanese robotics, but they may actually mark a new leap into the future of humanoid development.

Inventor Nobuhiro Takahashi programed his creation, called “SHIRI” or “butt” in Japanese, to respond with different emotions to different human touches. Takahashi hopes to use the proto-type technology to develop responses which can be applied to other part of a robot’s body, in particular the face, to help with non-verbal communication.

He decided to develop his technology with a rear end because a bottom’s movements are large and make it easier to convey emotion.

“I wanted to try and use a butt to reflect emotions – fear, joy and relaxation,” the 24-year-old Takahashi, a graduate student at the Tokyo University of Electro-Communication, said.

Robots can communicate with voices but have lacked non-verbal, physical responses that power much of human communication. Takahashi hopes his technology can overcome that.

To get a robot to show fear, Takahashi would use a hit, or in the case of the buttocks, a spank.

“Fear is a very human – very living – emotion, so it’s expressed with force, with a spank,” he said.

The robot bottom responds to a hit with quivering. A slow wobble is its default state, the sign for relaxation, while a gentle stroke brings clenches that Takahashi said signal pleasure.

“If we could apply this technology to conventional humanoid robots ... well, they would be able to express feelings sufficient to communicate with humans properly,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 06, 2012, on page 12.

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