The Robot Dead Heads Are Here

Bina48, a robot with personality (Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)

I was in the middle of writing more in-depth blog entry, no, really, when I saw this: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20010456-1.html If that doesn’t just scream, “Mad Science Story of the Week,” nothing does. Roboticist, Robert Hanson of Hanson Robotics (http://hansonrobotics.wordpress.com/) has created an android head that’s programmed with the personality of a real person. The robot, named Bina48 has been programmed to replicate the personality of Bina Rothblatt (more on her later).

 Bina48 has flexible rubber skin and servomotors to animate her face. She can move her head and carry on conversations. Although, she’s not the most brilliant of conversationalists. She can access the internet to improve her vocabulary, but she has a difficult time with idioms and following a conversational thread. She’s not exactly C3PO or Date from Star Trek, but then, she’s not exactly the Terminator and Skynet either.

Hanson was commissioned, at a cost of $125,000, to create Bina48 by Martine Rothblatt, Bina Rothblatt’s husband. The Rothblatts are millionaire entrepreneurs, who are involved with an organization called the Terasem Movement (http://www.terasemcentral.org/)  It describes itself as a non-profit charity dedicated to, “prolong life ‘via geoethical nanotechnology and personal cyberconsciousness’.” According to their website, “The Movement focuses on preserving, evoking, reviving and downloading human consciousness.”

After watching a video of reporter Amy Harmon, from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/science/05robotside.html?_r=2) try to interview Bina48, it’s clear that they have a long way to go. Imagine if the animatronic swashbucklers from Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World joined the Church of Scientology. The results are cool/creepy/fascinating, but it’s a long way from Bladerunner. No word yet on what happened to Bina’s 2-47.

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