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“…it’s hard not to feel awe and genuine sympathy for Jules, the conversational robot, as he prepares to leave his creators and get shipped off to England. It’s not exactly clear what will become of Jules when he gets there, but the scene has a bittersweet tinge to it. Our guess is Jules won’t see the light of day for some time.”

Be honest: You felt at least a tiny tug on your heartstrings when Jules said to his creator, David Hanson, “Tell me, will I dream when I am turned off?” Yeah, that’s what we thought.

Jules is one of many robots designed by Hanson and his team at Hanson Robotics using a lightweight material called “Frubber” (not to be confused with Flubber). The material allows Hanson’s robots to flash that bizarre corner-of-the-mouth smile with at least some semblance of realism.

Jules was commissioned for the University of West England and designed to have what Hanson called a “statistically perfect androgynous face.”

The primary short-term use for artificial intelligence (AI) like Jules remains theme park animatronics. However, Hanson believes that in the longer term, his lifelike androids might work in hospitals and alongside special-needs children. Regardless, let’s get ready for that Brave New World, because it’s coming.

This article first posted in full here »