Thursday, March 19, 2009

Japanese Runway Model Robot Unveiled

According to the London Telegraph, Japanese robotics researchers have created a catwalk robot that will soon be modelling clothes on the runway at Tokyo fashion shows. The female cyborg—kitted out with slightly oversized eyes, a small nose and shoulder-length straight bob—has 42 motion motors that are programmed to imitate the movements of real human fashion models. The media premiere took place at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology outside Tokyo. In front of a cadre of reporters, television crews and photographers, the cybernetic human posed, smiled and pouted based on commands transmitted wirelessly via bluetooth devices. The fashion-bot is far from perfect however, occasionally mixing up facial expressions, which the inventors attributed to confusion of sound recognition sensors because of the din created by many camera shutters. Moreover, she doesn't uncannily resemble a real human—this was a deliberate move on the part of the creators, who intentionally designed her superficial features in an animé-style.

Whether this kind of fashion model robot will catch on, in Japan or internationally, is a question I'm sure many have contemplated. For starters, clothes are designed to fit real human women (the word "real" here I use liberally and not to incite any debate on normative body types) and not a robot, who so far has a more angular (not to mention hard) shape and moves less fluidly. Moreover, models have become personalities again (as in the supermodels of the 1990s) and their celebrity, attitude and personal style all contribute to selling the clothes. Besides, the whole idea of cyborgs, whether for fashion or otherwise, is still one that no doubt many (including myself) find somewhat unsettling.

View the London Telegraph's video of the Japanese fashion robot: