Robotic butt cheeks

My first reaction to “Shiri” (yes, that’s its name) was to giggle. It did not help that there was a picture of a female sex doll in the discussion thread on the same page. But the thing is, “Shiri” is not a sex doll. You cannot perform any sexual functions on it. You can however, caress, smack or stroke it gently, and it will twitch or protrude, expressing fear or delight. The aesthetics of it is admittedly beautiful. The shape and proportion is appropriately realistic and the silicon casing imitates the tactility of real skin. I am not sure about the realism of the butt movement though. It does seem to be rather slow or not working well. Improvement needs to be made to this prototype.

Frivolous appearances aside, there is a serious intention behind this work. From the end credits, “Shiri” seems to be the work of some Japanese students or researchers from the “University of Electro Communications”. It is common knowledge that Japan faces the world’s direst situation of an aging population, compounded by a lack of immigration, low birth rate and certain social mindsets. Japan has been investing a lot in R&D in robotics with the prediction that robots will be helping to take care of the aged and infirm in future. My guess is that “Shiri” is part of this larger research effort, and is an attempt to create more human-like robots that will evoke an aesthetic and emotional response on the part of the user.

While robots lack the complex personality and subtle emotions of human beings, I see no harm in creating a human-like interface on a cold and impersonal instrument of technology. In any case, it reminds us of our human needs as social beings.

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