Japanese retailer uses robot mannequin in store display

Nathan Pensky · February 3, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/241b

Interactive mannequin may be the cutting edge of robotic engineering, but it's still super creepy

While I'm all for thinking of new, innovative ways to engage customers in retail environments, one Tokyo department store has taken the idea in a disturbing direction. Japanese retailer Takashimiya has installed a robotic mannequin in a certain Valentine's Day display window, programmed to interact with passing customers.

The humanoid robot, which is part of famed robotics desinger Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid series, is designed to display over 60 different "life-like" facial expressions. The different emotional responses are triggered by motion detectors, which pick up movement of shoppers passing by. Apparently the robot is even designed to yawn, if it doesn't recieve enough prompts.

Interesting, right? Well, wait until you watch the mannequin in action before you decide. In the humble opinion of this writer, these androids are just creepy. I understand that developing technology is a fluid process, full of fits and starts. But maybe we should wait until these robots look a little less Uncanny Valley-ish before we unleash them onto the public?

Back in 2010, one of Ishiguro's Gemenoid series robots actually starred in a Japanese play, Sayonara staged by director, Oriza Harata. Don't worry, the robot wasn't actually playing a human role. Still, the fact that these sort-of-human-looking-but-not-really robots were on stage at all is an indication of their fascinating appeal.

There seems to be a much bigger market for humanoid robots in Japan than in the West. Just a few of the many different robotic models available in Japan would suggest this, including robotic pets, robotic hospital workers, and robotic female companions. (Try not to read too much into that last one...) Back in 2006, Hiroshi Ishiguro even made a life-size Gemenoid replica of...himself.

Call me crazy, but I prefer my robots to be of the Lost in Space variety...

[Image Credit: Engadget]

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