Singing robot mouth wants to karaoke with you

Back to scare visitors to a trade show in Tokyo, Hideyuki Sawada's singing mouth just won't shut up. No need to fear, Lady Gaga.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Smelly robot armpit, meet the singing robot mouth. In your own special way, you both stink.

No doubt Hideyuki Sawada of Japan's Kagawa University would take umbrage at that. This week at Robotech 2011 in Tokyo, he is showing off his singing mouth as an attempt to reproduce the human voice in electromechanical fashion.

Sawada's mouth has been around for years, but he and his colleagues have improved it--mechanically, that is. It's still a lousy singer.

The mouth has an air compressor that acts as lungs and a silicone tongue and resonance tube that's shaped by eight servomotors to make different sounds.

It works in a feedback loop, listening to its horrific ululations via microphone, analyzing its output compared to a target sound, and correcting itself.

The vid below shows it trying to sing "Kagome Kagome," a children's tune. Needless to say, it doesn't sound much like the real thing.

But I still think this thing would have a chance at stardom if given a wig and a few dance moves.