WT-6 Waseda Talking Robot Head From Neuromancer

WT-6, in the Waseda Talker series of robots, is a robotic talking head described by its creators as an "anthropomorphic talking robot" because it creates speech with a set of articulators that duplicate the mechanical elements of human speech-making.

(WT-7 anthropomorphic talking robot)

The WT-6 anthropomorphic talking robot is the creation of Atsuo Takanishi and his Ph.D. student Kotaro Fukui at Waseda University in Tokyo. Takanishi and his group used mechanical actuators and a variety of materials to re-create the entire human vocal system. The vocal cavity, tongue, vocal chords, lips, teeth, soft palate and lungs were modeled from soft plastics and polymers.

(Waseda Talking robot articulators [earlier WT-5 version])

The robotic vocal chords are described this way for WT-5, the immediate predecessor to the current model:

Unlike a musical reed which has been used in conventional mechanical speech synthesizer, the vocal cord model is formed to mimic the human's vocal cord in the shape and the biological structure. It is made of a thermoplastic rubber, Septonh (Kuraray Co. Ltd.) of which the elasticity like a human's, and has 3-DOF mechanisms which is similar to the human structure. 1-DOF link mechanism could change the pitch by stretching the length of the vocal cords.

According to listeners, the result is "clear, natural speech" - in Japanese, of course.

In his 1984 novel Neuromancer, science fiction writer William Gibson wrote about an elaborate mechanical talking head that served as an output terminal:

…a head, an intricately worked bust, cloisonné over platinum, studded with seed pearls and lapis. ..The thing was a computer terminal…it could talk. And not in a synth-voice, but with a beautiful arrangement of gears and miniature organ pipes. It was a baroque thing for anyone to have constructed...
(Read more about about William Gibson's talking head)

Take a look at these robots that also imitate life:

Found this one here with more information at the Waseda-Talker Robot Series page and this abstract.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/23/2006)

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