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Russia builds its first realistic female android

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October 23, 2012

Alissa can serve as a telepresence robot, or participate in simple chat using the lab's AI...

Alissa can serve as a telepresence robot, or participate in simple chat using the lab's AI software (Photo: Mikhail Shcherbakov / Michael Vokabre)

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A few months ago, the 2045 Initiative movement (previously known as Russia 2045) unveiled the first realistic Russian android head, based on its founder Dmitry Itskov. He's a big believer in the prophetic technological singularity, and claims that by 2045 we will have developed the means to transplant our minds into computers and android bodies. His android surrogate, built and programmed by Moscow-based Neurobotics, has been dismantled and turned into the country's first female android.

Alissa's face may look somewhat realistic at first glance, since the silicone mask was made from one of Neurobotics' employees. However, unlike other android heads which can have more than 30 points of articulation, Alissa has only eight. This works out to be just enough to add movement to its eyes and mouth, which are controlled with a standard game pad. The head is mounted to a mannequin, which stands on a wheel base for mobility.

Alissa has some basic AI thanks to the company's conversational software, which synchronizes the mouth movements to the words spoken by its speech synthesizer. "The pseudo-AI is very basic, providing simple question and answer type interactions. The voice recognition doesn't require training for specific people, but it is sensitive to pauses and speech volume," explained Mikhail Shcherbakov, who recently visited the lab. The lab work is still in its early stages.

Alissa is a Russian android built by Moscow-based Neurobotics (Photo: Mikhail Shcherbakov ...

In telepresence mode, the operator uses Skype to communicate with the outside world. The cameras in Alissa's eyeballs provide a video feed, while the operator uses a headset. The company is experimenting with a relatively simple EEG (electroencephalography) set-up to allow the operator to drive the robot's base using thoughts alone.

Neurobotics is working closely with the 2045 Initiative, which claims androids will be commonplace by the end of the decade. However, given the humbling reality of the current state-of-the-art in countries like Japan, such predictions should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. You can see Alissa in action in the following video.

Source: Neurobotics (Russian) via Habrahabr (Russian)

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.   All articles by Jason Falconer
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21 Comments

That's the most realistic android I've ever seen. It's pushed far beyond the uncanny valley and emerged past the other side. Right now the only thing wrong with it is that its eyes look dead (not a shiny enough gloss on them) but other than that, the minimal articulation actually manages to have more potential for mood expression than the ones I've seen that are all tricked out with zillions of actuators. It comes across as a minimally expressive human, rather than a horrific mask on a cold, unfeeling machine.

I'm just surprised this didn't come out of Japan. Huge props to the Russian team for accomplishing this! (also, one of the related videos that pop up after the end of this article's video is of another Russian android that seems just as impressive)

Onihikage
23rd October, 2012 @ 12:58 pm PDT

Oh I agree! It can even talk without moving its lips.... I think it talks out of its eyes.(or some other orifice) Oh , I know! they had the wiring loom all wrong. The lip sync data was actually going to they eyes and vice versa! Just a matter of reversing a couple of plugs and it's all go!

paulgo
23rd October, 2012 @ 07:39 pm PDT

that's impressive. the mouth needs more movement - syncing , but the eyes work really well, they way they glance up and across. it's a pity they couldn't spring for a better hair piece, that wig is terrible - maybe even borrowed one with some advertising for it.

Inappropriate Response
24th October, 2012 @ 03:14 am PDT

To make the eyes look more natural, they need to blink from time to time. That's the only thing. ;-)

Jeremy Nasmith
24th October, 2012 @ 03:29 am PDT

Realistic?! Yeah right. I think 'uncanny valley' just went 'Grand Canyon' for me.

Martin_tu
24th October, 2012 @ 03:38 am PDT

Epic Fail! It doesn't have a soul.

Didrik Ganetz
24th October, 2012 @ 04:40 am PDT

If male-shaped robots are calles "androids" from the greek words for "man" and "shape", should´t be female-shaped robots be called "ginecoids", with the same logic?

Blind Librarian
24th October, 2012 @ 04:49 am PDT

I'm amazed any commentators think this device has bridged the Uncanny Valley.

Anybody who thinks there movements are realistic possibly spends a lot of time with stroke victims.

The Uncanny Valley is where, when the object is moving, there is an overall positive affinity towards the entity that has "high" human-likeness.

Static, this device has a moderate +ve affinity and looks relatively realistic, while being obviously non-human. However, once moving, the non-sync'd mouth, extreme eye movements, non-blinking, non-head-movement is downright freaky.

And that's the thing about the Uncanny Valley, is that this assertion is not wrong, because it's relative to the individual viewer.

If a real human was in the room and there were 10 observers, it would be difficult to see how any of the 10 observers might not have a +ve affinity to the individual human (you might not like their accent, hair colour, skin colour or the topic on which they were talking, but that's different to not having any +ve affinity at an intrinsically human level).

However, put this device in front of 10 human observers and, judging by these comments, at least half would have an instant revulsion towards the device.

I think the 3D gaming/graphics people have got much closer to spanning the Uncanny Valley than this device has.

DaddyHoggy
24th October, 2012 @ 06:07 am PDT

See here for why the gaming industry is way ahead of the "real world" when it comes the "uncanny valley" - I would gladly spend quality time with Kara:

DaddyHoggy
24th October, 2012 @ 06:24 am PDT

@DaddyHoggy, I'm sitting here in a coffee shop watching that video on my laptop. Right behind my laptop screen is another customer who looks just like Kara. Same build, same hair style, etc. (but more clothes). I couldn't keep my eyes from going back and forth between the animation and the real person just beyond my screen. I do have the volume turned down since I'm in a public space, but I'll watch it again with the volume up later.

Regarding the subject of this article, it doesn't look terribly realistic to me. I've seen more expression from animations using simple lines like Charles Schulz drew.

Victor Engel
24th October, 2012 @ 09:46 am PDT

Looks more like they've invented the first realistic female ventriloquist.

Now all we need is a real human to move their lips and be the dummy.

PeteKK
24th October, 2012 @ 09:57 am PDT

DaddyHoggy,

Kara tells us that using a video of a real actress and them modifying it to appear to be a robot produces a very realistic image of a robot but doesn't mean any closer to using a real robot than the Russians.

Page Schorer
24th October, 2012 @ 11:27 am PDT

The overall model looks realistic and not some cute Japanese toy. Still very promising.

Dawar Saify
24th October, 2012 @ 11:44 am PDT

While it may be technological advancement, it looks creepy to me. I prefer a robotic face for a robotic creation..

Gargamoth
24th October, 2012 @ 03:48 pm PDT

I wonder if she''ll empty your bank accounts for you and spend it going shopping all day.

Sorry to say the Japanese have beat the Russians to the punch line as theirs is a bit more advanced and much more attractive .

Jim Andrews
24th October, 2012 @ 03:52 pm PDT

Can they get it's (her?) voice to sound less like a Taco Bell drive-through speaker?

erock5000
26th October, 2012 @ 06:20 am PDT

I like this android! Nice attempt!

cyberinterior
26th October, 2012 @ 06:48 am PDT

I think she said that she invented the robot.

Mark A
30th October, 2012 @ 07:54 am PDT

IMHO it looks more realistic firstly because Russian laws are softer in allowing to use personal exterior as matrix for silicone masks...

Michael Skidan
22nd November, 2012 @ 05:36 am PST

Shouldn't it be called a gynoid instead of an android?

Irina Nica
10th February, 2013 @ 11:15 am PST

Stol' krasivyi ! Ya dumaiu, chto ya vliublen !

So beautiful ! I think i'm in Love !

She has beautiful slavic face. Love red hair, also.

Da svidanya !

Starper
5th June, 2013 @ 04:06 pm PDT
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