An android, also known as a synthetic organism, is a robot designed to look like a human, with emphasis on realistic skin and movement. The name “android” has been used in science fiction stories in many different ways. The Oxford English Dictionary found that the earliest use of the word Android was most likely in Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, which referred to St. Albertus Magnus’s alleged automaton as Androides. In US patents, the term first appears in 1863 referring to small human-like automaton toys. Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, a French author, first used the term android in the modern understanding in his 1886 book Tomorrow’s Eve. In popular English science fiction, the term android became known due to Jack Williamson’s The Cometeers. Other uses of the term “android” include George Lucas’ version, droid, which was used in his Star Wars film. Androids are so popular that developments in technology have allowed for the creation of realistic and functional humanoid robots, or androids.
Androids often appear in science fiction as equal or even superior to humans, a theme that is prevalent in Isaac Asimov’s literature. In most science fiction featuring androids, an element of humanity is present. In Pinocchio, the main character wishes to become a human, while in other films like Westworld, androids seek to fight against the wrongdoings of humanity. Other stories address racism, like Blade Runner, while others address misogyny, like The Stepford Wives.
Although androids are best known in the world of science fiction, real life androids have been developed in many areas including Japan, Korea, and the United States. In 2005, developers from the Intelligent Robotics Lab in Japan, directed by Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University and Kokoro Co., Ltd. showed their Actroid at the Expo 2005. Kokoro Co. branched out in 2006 and developed the DER 2 android, which was more sophisticated that its predecessor. The DER2 featured a slimmer body, enhanced cosmetics, and an air servosystem, developed by Kokoro Co., which uses air to actuate the robot and make its movements fluid.
Other androids made in Japan include Saya, a head developed by a team from the Intelligent Mechatronics Lab that was introduced at Robodex 2002 and is currently “working” as a tour guide at the Science University of Tokyo. A team of developers from Waseda University in Japan and NTT Docomo created a shape-shifting android called WD-2 in 2003, giving it significant upgrades in 2004. This android moves its face using seventeen facial points, each with three degrees of freedom.
In Korea, KITECH developed an android that was capable of interacting with humans by moving its facial “muscles” and using a vocabulary of four hundred words. This android, known as EveR-1, is of typical height and weight for a young Korean woman and is equipped with an advanced system to make her look realistic, even allowing her sing and dance at the same time. In the United States, an android was created for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, known as Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The United States was the first to produce the world’s first walking robot, Albert Hubo, and the PKD android, a portrait of the author Philip K. Dick that can converse about thousands of pages of literature from the author.
Image Caption: This is a photograph of EveR-2, a female android developed by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and demonstrated to the public in October 2006. It is 165cm tall and weighs 60kg. Credit: Korea Institute of Industrial Technology/Wikipedia