Innovation is the thing that keeps humanity moving towards a new future. That’s the sort of idea that is behind the Tokyo Design Week, which this year was renamed to the Tokyo Genius Expo. Gathering visionaries from all over the world every year to showcase their brilliant work in their respective fields, the Tokyo Genius Expo has taken place since 2005, and attracts over 100,000 visitors intrigued with what the human race can achieve. However, this year one star stole the show at the exposition, and while she is definitely an example of innovation, “human” might not be the right word for her. Meet Asuna.
Asuna is a hyperreal android built to look just like your average 15 year old girl. Every single detail from her skin to her eyes to her hair are meant to look like something that you would see on a real person. Designed by the robotics masterminds at A-Lab Co. Ltd. she is even capable of talking to people. While some believe her to be a bit eerie in her resemblance to an actual human, others find her cute, even labeling her the “companion of the future.” According to blog and news posts in Japan, Asuna may be the key to overcoming the “Uncanny Valley.”
The “Uncanny Valley” is a theory of aesthetics which explains humanity’s general aversion to non-human objects in human form. While generally humans are not uncomfortable with things that represent other people is some sense, such as anime characters or action figures, there is a certain point where the resemblance to a human can become too real, such as in puppets, dolls, and robots that look too close to the real thing. It is at this point of visual similarity that most people feel a strong feeling of repulsion against the object in question. When graphed out on a chart (as seen above), it leaves a massive dip in the comfortably level to human likeness ratio.
Still, if all goes as the folks at A-Lab hope, androids like Asuna will be able to attract people, rather than steer them away. The question at this time is whether or not they intend to look into developing actual artificial intelligence for her. If so, we might be looking at the development of persocoms.
For more on the Tokyo Genius Expo, take a look at the event’s website where you can learn about all of the great attractions they had going this year. If you’d like to learn more about the work andmechanics behind Asuna, you can find it by visiting A-Lab’s website, where you can find Asuna’s in-depth profile.
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