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Wakamaru the Noodle-Slurping Storyteller

Researchers at Osaka University have been working with Mitsubishi’s Wakamaru for years, and have even put on plays where a pair of Wakamarus interacted with their human owners.  Now, the researchers and a team from Eager Co. Ltd. have programmed the robot to perform a one-man show where comic delivery is key.

The robot can change its pitch and tone of voice for different characters in the story, and will play prerecorded slurping sounds as it pretends to eat ramen noodles.  The gesture requires the robot to tilt its head while pretending to hold a bowl steady in one hand while guiding noodles with the other.  They suggest the timing of this gesture is difficult, so perhaps they should consult with traditional animators to help bring the robot to life?  So far they’ve been watching comedy DVDs to get the feeling right.

The researchers hope the robot will be as engaging as a live performer, which would suggest that robots could become communication partners with humans in the future.

[source: Yahoo! News Japan (JP)]