Japan Roboticists Predict Rise of the Machines

Set in 2019, cult 80s movie Blade Runner envisaged a neon-stained landscape of bionic “replicants” genetically engineered to look just like humans. So far that has failed to materialise, but at a secretive research institute in western Japan, wild-haired roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro is fine-tuning technology that could blur the line between man and machine. Highly intelligent, self-aware and helpful around the house – the robots of the future could look and act just like humans and even become their friends, Ishiguro and his team predict.

“I don’t know when a Blade Runner future will happen, but I believe it will,” the Osaka University professor told AFP.

“Every year we’re developing new technology – like deep learning, which has improved the performance of pattern recognition,” he added.

“Now we’re focusing on intention and desire, and if we implement them into robots whether they become more human-like.”

Robots are already widely used in Japan – from cooking noodles to helping patients with physiotherapy.

Marketed as the world’s first “cyborg-type” robot, HAL (hybrid assistive limb) – developed by Tsukuba University and Japanese company Cyberdyne — is helping people in wheelchairs walk again using sensors connected to the unit’s control system.

Scientists believe service robots will one day help us with household chores, from taking out the garbage to making the perfect slice of toast.

Stockbrokers in Japan and around the world are already deploying AI bots to forecast stock market trends and science fiction’s rapid advance towards science fact owes much to the likes of Ishiguro.