At hospitals, fembots may soon be making the rounds

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Hospital patients may soon be "comforted" by an eerily lifelike (read: creepy) humanoid robot that can mime facial expressions of concern.

A new PR video from Kokoro, a Tokyo-based entertainment company, has been circulating on the internet after its October 26 release, much to the fascination of bloggers and media sites. "Watch the horror," reported Popular Science magazine. Kokoro has teamed up with Osaka University's Hiroshi Ishiguro in the creation of feminine androids, known as Actroids (such as Geminoid F), in development over the last few years and revealed at a press conference in Osaka in April 2010.

The fembot known as Actroid F, featured in the video, has minimal servomotors to save on cost, but it can't walk. Kokoro is reported to have announced plans to sell 50 units to museums and hospitals for around $110,000 apiece (72,000 euros), with hopes that the bots will serve roles as receptionists, patient attendants, or guides. The company has reported that in a hospital trial, patients responded "favorably" to the robots.

Actroid F can move its eyes, mouth, head, and back and create facial expressions that closely resemble human ones. "Cameras and face-tracking software follow a remote operator so facial expressions and head movements are reproduced in the robot in a master-slave relationship via Internet link," reported news website CNET.

Other robots holding jobs in hospitals include a (nonhumanlike) receptionist robot at the Aizu Central Hospital located north of Tokyo, who welcomes visitors and answers spoken questions. Also, RIBA (Robot Assistance for Interactive Body), a robot created by the Japan Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, makes itself useful by lifting patients from their hospital beds. In a UK hospital, a fleet of robots do the dirty work by transporting clinical wastes and dirty linens, while others deliver food and dispense drugs.

To watch the Actroid F in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFVlzUAZkHY&feature

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