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World's first android newscasters unveiled in Japan

The fascination with weird and wonderful robots at the Android: What is a Human? exhibition continues, as Japan unveils the world's first android newscasters.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Automated processes can help deliver news -- as demonstrated by the LA Times earthquake reporting algorithm -- but sitting in front of a camera or audience to read it aloud is traditionally the job of a human. That may be changing -- at least in Japan.

At an exhibition called Android: What is a Human? at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at the Osaka University Graduate School of Engineering Science, has unveiled his latest project: a pair of android newscasters.

The two androids take the uncanny valley form of a girl called Kodomoroid (kodomo meaning "child") and a woman called Otonaroid (otona meaning "adult"), who can interact with humans, read the news and read Tweets in several different voices -- although their silicon skin and limited facial movement makes them appear somewhat strange.

Kodomoroid and Otonaroid will become part of the museum's collection, interacting with visitors to help collect data for Professor Ishiguro's research into human-robot interactions. Professor Ishiguro, who has been developing robots for over 20 years, hopes that his research will help develop more intelligent robots to be used in a large range of potential roles.

Professor Ishiguro also has a robot built in his own image, which he sends overseas to give lectures, and had previously developed the Telenoid R1, a robot designed for telepresence communications, which is also on display at the exhibition.