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News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?

• Wired by Alex Mar

It is summer 2002, mid-morning in a university research lab on the edge of Osaka, Japan. Two girls—both dressed in pale yellow, with child-puffy cheeks, black shoulder-length hair, and bangs—stand opposite each other under fluorescent lights. More precisely: One is a girl, 5 years old; the other is her copy, her android replica. They are the same size, one modeled on the other, and they are meeting for the first time. ¶ The girl stares hard into the eyes of her counterpart; its expression is stern and stiff. It seems to return her gaze. ¶ A man is videotaping the pair—he is the father of one, creator of the other—and from off-camera he asks, "Would you like to say something?" ¶ The girl turns to him, disoriented. She turns back to the android. ¶ "Talk to her!" he says. "Hello." ¶ The girl repeats the word, quietly, to her robot-self. It nods. ¶ Her father feeds her another line: "Let's play."

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