Japanese robots have come a long way since the 17th century and I’m sure some of you remember the Geminoid robot, created by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, who was featured in our 12 Secretly Evil Japanese Robots Programmed To Haunt Your Nightmares post. Well, Dr. Ishiguro is at it again and this time he and his robots are taking on the retail world.
As part of a special Valentine’s Day promotion, Tokyo department store Takashimiya (popular retailer of everything from wedding dresses and other apparel to electronics and flatware) has teamed up with Dr. Ishiguro here to install a new attraction. This new android, Geminoid-F (F for female) was created by Dr. Ishiguro and his team, in collaboration with ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, and Kokoro who are known for their Actroid androids.
Placed in the front window of the store, this lifelike android doubles as both a mannequin for the clothes and as an extra draw to the store. She is an air servo-powered android with eye, mouth, head, and shoulder mobility. While holding her precious phone, acting as if waiting for a friend on Valentine’s Day, the female robot is capable of everything from smiles to yawns. It is also very, very creepy.
Geminoid-F In Action
Retailers would like to use real fashion models in their store windows, but it isn’t practical. Mannequins, however, don’t really look human. Using an android like this realizes the store windows of the future.
Dr. Ishiguro has been developing his robots for a while now and his creations are very lifelike. If you’ve read our previous post detailing all of the creepy robots to come out of Japan, you’ll remember that Dr. Ishiguro’s are easily some of the most impressively realistic. His partnership with Takashimiya is the first time his androids have ever been used in retail. But where does Dr. Ishiguro see this going?
Are Androids the Future?
“I see this as the future of shop displays,” commented Dr. Ishiguro glancing at another window display made up of boring ol’ traditional mannequins, “they don’t represent real life at all which is what I see as the point of some displays.”
But how does this particular android work? Well, she is capable of sixty-five actions and cycles through four different emotional states according to her programming. She is also connected to an Xbox Kinect system complete with facial recognition software which enables her to react and look like she’s really paying attention to potential shoppers passing by her window. “We have tried to make it more lifelike through not programming her to react to every shopper in sudden movements but in a more natural way and arranged her in a pose as if waiting for someone,” Dr. Ishiguro explains.
The lavish display certainly attracts more attention than that of one with a traditional mannequin setup, but her actual impact on sales is yet to be determined. Regardless, Dr. Ishiguro hopes that this display will be paving the way to a new form of commercial advertising. He claims he “would love to take the idea over to New York and have this type of display in luxury shops on the likes of Fifth Avenue.” Will that happen one day? Maybe. Will it happen soon?
The Robot Revolution Continues
Now, I’m not sure how expensive these androids are to manufacture, but I’m sure it ain’t cheap. I personally very much doubt that the increase in customer base will do much to offset the great expense of having an android in your storefront window. Perhaps in the long run it will end up paying for itself, but one must consider the maintenance that must be done to keep these machines in working order as well.
There is always a chance that androids will become much cheaper to make in the future and we’ll start seeing android mannequins not just in the storefront windows but scattered across the insides of the stores as well, but I believe that future is currently far, far away.
Or maybe Dr. Ishiguro has actually been replaced by his original Geminoid and this new android Ishiguro is starting to plant sleeper agent androids around the country in preparation for the inevitable robot uprising! But more importantly, will Vocaloids and androids be able to work together in their quest for world domination or will they fight each other for the right to rule their fleshy underlings!? Only time will tell.
So what do you think? Are android mannequins the future of retail? If so, how long do you think it’ll be before we start seeing them over here in America? Let us know in the comments!