The Jia Jia robot was unveiled last week in China. Chinese researchers debuted Jia Jia on Friday as the first of its kind in China. Attractive and lifelike, but also described as somewhat disturbing, the female Jia Jia robot is programmed to recognize human interaction and respond through speech and movement.
Jia Jia looks very humanlike, but with very limited facial expressions, it’s pretty obvious she’s a robot when she starts speaking. Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), where Jia Jia was introduced last Friday, said that with very limited resources, they were able to make Jia Jia look very much like a human, but were not able to recreate natural eye and mouth movement.
Critics agree that Jia Jia is very good-looking and eerily realistic-looking for a robot, but the fembot fails to make eye contact when interacting with a live human. During a demonstration at the Chinese university on Friday, the Jia Jia robot immediately responded to human interaction, but in a stiff, slow, and robotic-looking manner.
After three years of research, a robot development team created Jia Jia at the University of Science and Technology in the city of Hefei, the capital and largest city of the Anhui Province in Eastern China. According to researchers, lack of materials limits Jia Jia to making only micro-facial expressions. Jia Jia’s speech also has a distinct robotic-stiffness.
Creators of the Jia Jia robot say she’s one of the “most lifelike robots ever made,” according to a report by CNET on Monday. Researchers at the university went on to say that they hope to soon add facial expression, as well as a deeper level of human interaction.
“We hope to develop the robot so it has deep learning abilities. We will add facial expression recognition and make it interact more deeply with people,” according to Jia Jia’s development team leader, Chen Xiaoping, in an interview published on the Chinese news website, Xinhuanet.com, on Friday.
Researchers and developers at USTC have admittedly come a long way since they created the first interactive general purpose service robot, KeJia, a few years ago. KeJia is far from humanoid in appearance, while the Jia Jia robot actually looks like a real woman. But both robots share the same slow, mechanical, dulcet tone when interacting with humans.
Chen contrasts Jia Jia with KeJia, saying in addition to Jia Jia’s human-like form, she also rolls her eyes naturally and syncs lip movements with her speech.
Referring to the Jia Jia robot as a “robot goddess,” Chen says the team doesn’t have plans to mass produce her, only to make her smarter and more lifelike.
For now, Jia Jia only nods, squints, moves her eyeballs, and waves her hand. Jia Jia also speaks when spoken to, but in phrases that make her appear self-conscious and even subservient, according to a report by Yahoo! on Monday.
“Don’t come too close to me when you are taking a picture. It will make my face look fat.”
“The photos taken from your angle will make my face appear bigger.”
“Yes, my lord. What can I do for you?”
In fact, Miss Metaverse and founder of BodAi, Katie Aquino, calls the Jia Jia robot a modern marvel, but portrays a harmful and outdated stereotype. BodAi’s team of U.S. and U.K. experts tout their own virtual life-sized humanoid robots as “personal and commercial-use robots with personalities.” Aquino says that robots can be helpful and provide positive services to humans, but the Jia Jia robot isn’t quite there yet.
Initial development of Jia Jia focused more on appearance rather than on actual human interaction, but Chen said that plans are in the works to upgrade the Jia Jia robot with more artificial intelligence, possibly even with the ability to laugh and to cry.
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