Wonder Festival is a semiannual Japanese convention dedicated to model and figure-building which attracts all manner of pros, amateurs, and cosplayers from across the country. Most recently, the Winter 2015 Wonder Festival was held at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center in Chiba City on February 8.
Our reporter Meg was busy checking out the show when she spotted a cute girl standing behind robotic company A-Lab’s booth. “Aww, she looks just like an idol from AKB48!” Meg thought. But when she got closer, she was shocked to realize that the girl was actually a hyperreal-looking android! In fact, many of the people attending the exhibition were equally stunned to learn that Asuna was an android, and not a living, breathing human girl. Would you have been tricked along with them?
Asuna, the android that’s attracting attention from all over the world
People often look at humanoid robots and think “That’s creepy!” However, Asuna is so human-like that you might find yourself thinking “She’s cute!” instead. Researchers have determined that there is a human instinct to react with disgust when people see something, such as a doll or robot, that appears to be too human while still falling short of looking exactly like the real thing. That said, researchers are now investigating the possibility that extremely human-like robots such as Asuna have the ability to bypass this repulsion entirely and be viewed merely as other people instead.
According to her official profile, Asuna is a beautiful 15-year-old who was “born” in Tokyo. She is 155 cm tall (61 inches) and weighs 43 kg (95 lbs).
Our reporter felt an instant affinity to Asuna’s lifelike movements
Sure, you’ve probably seen pictures of humanlike robots before, but the true charm behind this android lies in her movements. Meg comments that she was blown away by the sheer naturalness of Asuna’s mannerisms. From the way she blinks and squeezes her eyes shut to the shape her mouth makes as if she were about to yawn, Asuna is truly on a different level from other androids.
Take a look at Asuna’s incredibly lifelike facial movements in the following video:
What it feels like to touch one of Asuna’s ears
Meg felt like the secret behind Asuna’s lifelike appearance had something to do with her skin, so she was pleased to learn that visitors to the booth could touch a sample of one of Asuna’s ears. Expecting to touch something hard, Meg was surprised to feel something soft and squishy instead. “Hey, this actually feels kind of nice,” she thought. Apart from having no warmth, it actually felt similar to a real girl’s ear.
A-Lab, the same company that built the “Matsukoroid”
The folks at Tokyo-based A-Lab have been involved with many projects, of which Asuna is just one. They are in fact the same company that developed the “Matsukoroid,” another android that could be a carbon copy of Matsuko Deluxe, the plus-sized Japanese TV personality known for his cross-dressing stage persona and deep voice. “Matsukoroid” will reportedly join the real Matsuko as early as this April on a new TV program appropriately called “Matsuko and Matsuko.”
▼Will the real Matsuko please stand up? (Actually, she’s already standing, )
We’ll leave you now with some more photos of Asuna from Wonder Festival. Who knows, maybe a robotic idol group isn’t that far from reality!
▼When a real person stands next to Asuna, her body seems a bit frail.
▼Her resting face is fine…
▼…but you really start to see her potential when she moves.
▼This being Japan and all, they’ve got this marketing thing down to a science.