Everybody remembers replicants from Blade Runner — robots that are so humanlike, a test needs to be administered in order to distinguish between humans and perfectly disguised machines. Now, robotics designer David Hanson and his team at Hanson Robotics want to make replicants a reality. And they’re starting with Frubber™-covered faces.
Frubber, or “flesh rubber,” is inspired by real human faces (of course), in that it mimics the way human flesh moves. To do so, Frubber uses a spongy elastomer (i.e. rubber) filled with self-assembling liquid-filled cells that are easily manipulated by several motors anchored behind the facial veneer.
In the above video, “Han,” one of Hanson Robotics’ models, is on display, and towards the beginning of the clip one of his presenters says that he (it?) is “one of the most expressive robots in the world.” And while overall Han may look like something that you’d find in a scrap pile by the side of a Flesh Fair, his expressions are definitely relatable—and definitely a huge leap into the uncanny valley—thanks to his Frubbery face.
Hanson gives a compelling speech on the work he’s doing in this Tedx talk, saying that he believes that in about 15 to 20 years, we’ll have “machines with human-like identities [that are able] to catch up with human capabilities and then surpass us in their brilliance.” Ultimately, he wants to help make this dream a reality by stitching together disparate fields in robotics, artificial intelligence, and material design, to develop what will basically be a replicant. And now that the Frubber puzzle has been solved, all Hanson needs is the general artificial intelligence component, and he’ll be well on his way to achieving his goal.
Tyrell Corporation, you have been warned.
What do you think about Han and Hanson Robotics? And what was your human facial reaction to those robot faces? Let us know in the comments section below!
HT: Boing Boing
Images: Notebook Italia