A face only a mother could love? Perhaps... if you're the CEO of Mom's Friendly Robot Company. Anyone else is bound to recoil with the same level of disgust robotic SAYA expresses in her publicity photos.
One has to ask - how often does a receptionist (robotic or otherwise) need to show disgust, anger or sadness anyway? The rocket, er, robot scientists at Tokyo University have programmed those expressions into SAYA, who displays them by articulating a series of 18 plates beneath the "skin" of her face.
Seriously guys, I know you don't get out much and your social skills have suffered accordingly, but women have been known to crack a smile on occasion.
Being that a receptionist is often considered the "face of the company", what company is going to want SAYA's disapproving scowl greeting visitors and potential clients?
The wags over at Fark.com have had a field day with poor SAYA, posting the "Do Not Want" image at left along with a plethora of often hilarious comments.
The following video, taken during SAYA's promotional visit to Israel's Ben Gurion University, doesn't help matters much as she continually contorts her features into an ever-changing rictus of wrongness. Check out SAYA's "natural facial expressions" (shudder)...
Whew, wasn't that disturbing? And that's just the George Costanza-ish professor, SAYA is on a whole 'nother level of creepy - or, the pervy prof had his hand on her leg the whole time. In any case, it's obvious that we've got a while to wait before acceptable humanoid robots appear in public settings.
This begs the question: why do robots have to be humanoid at all? We've become so attuned to the fine nuances of facial expression it's hard to imagine a mechanical analog could ever come close to approximating them. "Close" is not close enough, by the way. Humans have also evolved to be sensitive to differences from normality, which is why something that's "off" can trigger a negative emotional response.
My opinion? We don't NEED perfect copies of us - at least, not in the functions they're being touted for, like SAYA the robotic receptionist. I'd be much more comfortable dealing with C3P0 at the front desk than have a robot female give me a P.O.'d look I can get at home from a real female. Sorry SAYA... or should I say, SAYAnara! (via Daily Mail and Plastic Bamboo)