by Danny Staple

This is a rather historic robot. It looks to the casual observer like a young Japanese woman, but in fact is a sophisticated robot with synthetic skin.

It is currently limited to sitting down, and the illusion of being human cannot be sustained when you interact at length with it - but these robots are getting closer to the mark.

This is a brilliant development. I am sure there are those that fear it could be the step toward worlds like that of Blade Runner and The Terminator, but I think at this point, replicant robots are merely playthings, and me be the butlers of tomorrow. I can see them being much more the role of Commander Data than some of the darker possibilities.

The creator of this robot is Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, who believes one day robots really will be able to pass for humans. At this point though, an AI needs to pass the Turing Test first - something I don’t think will happen until we really create systems which can data mine, have real world senses, context sense like SHRDLU as well as decent vocabulary and grammar. The robot would also (like this one,Cog and Kismet ) need to be able to make and maintain eye contact, and be able to draw context on is surroundings, and the eye movements of its talking partner.

While we are gaining ground, we are still a long way from having a natural conversation with a robot. The BBC coverage on this