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Robot clone summit like one big, happy family

When the Geminoid clan gets together for a reunion of sorts in Kyoto, Japan, things get a little spooky.

Meet the Geminoids: Seated, from left to right, Geminoid F, Geminoid HI-1, and Geminoid DK. Standing behind them are some random humans.

Imagine walking into a room and seeing these people. Well, only some of them are people. Imagine they're all sitting down and they slowly turn to you and one says, "Welcome. You're just in time for your Voight-Kampff test."

Kyoto took on a sci-fi tinge recently when the Geminoid clan had a family reunion. The people who spawned three of Japan's eerie lifelike robots met up with their clones at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) for some heart-warming photos.

ATR has been developing the air servo-powered doppelgangers since 2006, when Osaka University engineering professor Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled an android copy of himself called Geminoid HI-1 for research into robotics and cognitive science.

Ishiguro, who works with Tokyo-based entertainment firm Kokoro, later fashioned a female robot called Geminoid F that was based on a female model. Last year, Danish professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University's Center for Computer-mediated Epistemology got into the game by ordering the first Geminoid based on a non-Japanese.

When Scharfe ordered his Geminoid DK bot from Kokoro, the price tag was around $200,000, he told The Vancouver Sun. It took about six months to build.

Scharfe can remotely operate Geminoid DK so that it imitates some of his upper-body movements such as head position and facial expression. Meanwhile, it automatically "breathes" and blinks for a more lifelike effect. "It begins to feel very natural to operate it," Scharfe tweeted. "Really like a natural extension of my first body."

Scharfe said he used his clone in a translation experiment when he got together with the other Geminoids.

Geminoid DK is due to appear at an exhibition titled "IRL: In Real Life 2011" at the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art in Dublin this summer, where Scharfe will deliver a keynote address.

The android will also do a stint at a men's fashion shop in Denmark, perhaps as a kind of freaky mannequin. What would the Old Navy dummies say?