Next top model

Move over Kate Moss and Bar Rafaeli, there’s a new model in town

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  March 18, 2009

Move over Kate Moss and Bar Rafaeli, there’s a new model in town. She’s got jet-black hair, brown eyes and a seductive pout, but there’s one thing that sets her apart from the Janes – she’s an android.

Sporting the unglamorous name ‘HRP-4C’, the robot was built by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) at a cost of more than 200 million yen ($3 million).

Designed specially for the entertainment industry, HRP-4C is capable of walking, talking and even generating facial expressions such as joy, surprise and anger…but not much else at the moment.

Developers at AIST admit that their ‘cybernetic human’ isn’t ready to work alongside people or do simple chores, which many believe is the AI future. "Technologically, it hasn't reached that level," said Hirohisa Hirukawa, one of the robot's developers.

When introduced to the media at a special event in Tokyo a few days ago, she sported a spaced-out look in more ways than one. Not only did she don a black and silver metallic combo that would have made every cyborg this side of the planet proud, she also managed to mix up facial expressions after getting several voice commands wrong.

This was blamed on her sound recognition sensors being overwhelmed - even us mortals know how annoying that can be!

Standing 158 centimeters tall, the model bot is hardly tall enough to be classified as a runway model but her weight of 43 kilograms (including batteries!) will probably help her fit right into the world of high-fashion. That’s a remarkable achievement, considering that she packs 30 motors in her body and 8 in her face to aid motion.

With an expected price tag of $200,000, sans the face or other coverings, HRP-4C commands as much as real models in the business. And, as she isn’t fit to walk with humans just yet, all eyes will only be on her as she makes her debut by walking down the runway at a fashion show in Tokyo on March 23rd.

While her limited capabilities have let down enthusiasts of artificial intelligence around the world to a certain degree, it’s still a major step forward in a field that’s captured the interest of people everywhere.

But many still don’t get it - even the most advanced of robots have to interact and adapt in a very human world, and it will take time to get that right. HRP-4C is already learning that it’s a fight for survival in today’s world.

"Even as a fashion model, people in the industry told us she was short and had a rather ordinary figure," researcher Hirukawa admitted.

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