CommU robots are tiny 11" tall babies that talk with each other on subjects of interest to small robots, primarily heat dissipation. Apparently. Anyway, here's a demonstration video from Japan House at SXSW 2016.
(An uncomfortable conversation between robots)
In its simplest terms, the CommU, which looks like a creepy baby, is 11 inches in height, and ideally come in pairs of two or more. Ishiguro is quick to point out that the bigger the group, the more realistic the communication exchange. The robots are programmed to “talk” to each other on a number of topics; when observing from afar, there does appear to be a real conversation taking place. When the group senses the presence of a human, they are programmed to engage with them and involve them in their exchange.
“If you have two or more robots having a conversation with each other and suddenly a human joins the group, the CommU will recognize the human is talking and say something along the lines of: ‘What do you think?’” he says. “When you answer, the robots will say, ‘I see’ or ‘Interesting,’ then return to their own ‘conversation.’ They don’t understand what the human is saying. The CommU simply demonstrates the dynamics of group communication.”
But with two or more, a convincing communication exchange in a group setting happens — even though the robots cannot understand the human.
In Supertoys Last All Summer Long, a 1967 story by Brian Aldiss, a childless couple adopts a young robot boy while waiting for government permission to have a child.
...When she had come down from the nursery, Monica had de-opaqued the windows, so that they now revealed the vista of garden beyond. Artificial sunlight was growing long and golden across the lawn - and David and Teddy were staring through the window at them.
Seeing their faces, Henry and his wife grew serious.
"What do we do about them?" Henry asked.
"Teddy's no trouble. He works well."
"Is David malfunctioning?"
"His verbal communication-center is still giving trouble. I think he'll have to go back to the factory again."
"Okay. We'll see how he does before the baby's born.
Science fiction writer Henry Slesar envisioned this development many years ago, in his 1958 short story Robot Brother:
Feb 6, 1997:
This is a day twice-blessed for me. Today, at St. Luke's hospital, our first child was born to my wife, Ila... when I saw her this morning, I could not bring myself to mention the second birth that has taken place in my laboratory. The birth of Machine, my robot child...
As time goes on, little Mac, the robot baby, is developing beautifully:
At four months, Fitz is developing along normal lines. His little body has gone from asymmetric postures to symmetric postures, his eyes now converge and fasten on any dangling object held at mid-point.
As for Mac, he is developing even more rapidly. He is beginning to learn control of his limbs: it is apparent that he will walk before his human brother. Before long, he will learn to speak; already I hear the rumbles within the cavity of the soundbox in his chest.
(Read more about Slesar's robot baby)