Talking, Singing Robot Gets New Lips And Nose, But Remains Creepy
Even the teaching of speech to hearing impaired kids has become robotized in Japan. But though the Talking Robot, first prototyped in 2007, has had a more recent nose job and its lips plumped up, it still sounds really creepy.
Proper voice and speech articulation is extremely difficult to acquire for those born with hearing impairments or who lose their hearing in their early years. Very simply, they have no feedback system to enable modification of their utterances, compared to hearing children, who are not only able to hear others' voice and speech, but hear their own sounds and can modify them to match the sounds of others.
Members of the department of Intelligent Mechanical Systems Engineering at Kagawa University, constructed the Talking Robot with motor-controlled vocal mechanisms imitating vocal cords, pharynx, nasal and oral cavities. The attempt was to create a natural sounding voice that imitates human speech. But, as you'll notice in the video below, even though the Talking Robot has a more human nose and mouth, the voice isn't quite human... yet.
The potential for the Talking Robot as a speech training tool for hearing impaired children is quite positive, however, for it has the advantage of creating and repeating sounds exactly the same way each time, which would drive a human teacher nuts! But what to do about the voice?