Japanese scientists unveil baby robot

A Tokyo University team has developed a robot designed to simulate the development and behaviour of a nine-month-old baby in an effort to better understand how humans grow.

The robot created by the team led by Professor Yasuo Kuniyoshi has met the media for the first time.

Creating a robot which can develop cognition in a way that a human baby does during it's growth process should also help in achieving a society where robots and humans can live side by side, says Professor Kuniyoshi.

"Our purpose is to build a system that can learn various behaviours and acquire various functionalities as it explores around the environment and interacting with humans," he said.

Noby is a highly accurate model with the sensory and motor functions of a nine-month-old human baby, measuring 71 centimetres in length and weighing 7.9 kilograms.

The body is covered in a soft "skin" with 600 tactile sensors. It is flexible and it's joints can move like those of a human baby.

Noby also has two cameras for "seeing" and two microphones for "listening to" the external world.

The project is also part of attempts to make more human-like robots.

Professor Kuniyoshi's team chose a nine-month-old human baby as Noby's model as this is the time of rapid development of movement and cognition functions.

Professor Kuniyoshi plans to study the data acquired from the sensors and cameras attached to the robot to find out how a baby reacts to the environment and the process by which it develops curiosity about new objects.

Noby is one of the humanoid robots created under a broader project headed by Minoru Asada, robotics engineering professor at Osaka University, and funded by the government-backed Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).