Talking Robot is Surprisingly Anthropomorphic

Is Your Earwax Wet or Dry?

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. This refined robot is the sixth in a series of experimental prototypes dating back five years.

The WT-6 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.

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

This development was neatly anticipated by science fiction writers. In his 1984 novel Neuromancer, author William Gibson wrote about an elaborate mechanical talking head that served as an output terminal:

... a head, an intricately worked bust, cloisonne?L 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:

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.