Humanoid robot unveiled at internet conference in Beijing

“Yangyang”, a humanoid robot with a variety of realistic expressions, goes on display at an internet conference in Beijing

BEIJING, CHINA (APRIL 30, 2015) (REUTERS) – “Yangyang”, a humanoid robot with a variety of realistic expressions wowed visitors at the Beijing’s Global Mobile Internet Conference on Thursday (April 30).

The robot is modeled on one of the researchers who helped develop the technology, and can blink, smile, shake hands, and even hug her human doppelganger.

The robots are made of a special type of silica gel, replicating the feeling of human skin to the touch. Yangyang is the fourth robot produced by Shanghai Shenqing Industry and she is modeled after one of the company’s researchers, Song Yang.

“This is the first one inside China. At present this robot has the most features, she has 43 degrees of freedom across her whole body, most of them are concentrated on the face, because of this, her expressions can be very varied,” said Song.

Song said having a robot made in your spitting image was a bit of a novel experience.

“After they made one of me, I got all these really amazing feelings. For instance her, for example, because I feel it’s like me, if when she’s performing her movements, expressions are not ideal, if she doesn’t do it well, I’ll feel its a real shame,” she said.

Currently Yangyang has to be controlled remotely, with sensors placed on a human who is moving behind the scenes and directing her expressions.

The team behind Yangyang believe future robots like her could be used as sales assistants, or body doubles for celebrities. One of the professors has already used his body double to deliver lectures on his behalf, though it couldn’t answer questions.

According to Song, on some level the robots could even be a way of keeping people “alive” and “young”. She pointed to the fact that one of their body doubles of a Japanese comedian is still in existence even though the comedian himself has passed away.

Many at the conference were blown away by the similarity between Yangyang and Song.

“At the time when the two of them were on the stage the visual impact was really strong. The first time I came over and when I saw the robot from afar actually I thought it was a person, only when I compared it to the real person did I realise it was actually a robot. So their ability to copy a person can already confuse us. It can already fool us. So it [the robot] is really great,” said 25-year old robotics industry worker Song Qingsong.

Some at the fair though had mixed feelings about the existence of such convincing robots.

“On the positive side, the robots could replace some famous people or stars or scientists when they give speeches, and maybe people would feel like they can use their time to do their own things. But on the negative side, perhaps in the future it’s possible that robots will become mankind’s rulers like in the American science fiction movies. I have my doubts about that,” said Shan Xinfang, an employee at an Internet start-up.

The Beijing’s Global Mobile Internet Conference concludes on Thursday.