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In search of the killer app for a communication android: Toshiba’s ChihiraKanae at the ITB Berlin Convention

Toshiba Robot ShihiraKanae with Chief Specialist and Marketing Strategist Hitoshi Tokuda

ChihiraKanae almost looks like a human being. She is ’daughter number 3’ of Toshiba’s ’communication android family’. Standing 165 centimetres tall, featuring 47 pneumatically controlled actuators and with a weight that remains her secret, she was much in demand at the ITB Berlin Convention. Moderators and developers are enthralled by her quasi-female design features. This much is clear: for human beings a humanoid robot is much more than the sum of its computer and machine parts – even if Hitoshi Tokuda, Toshiba’s chief R&D specialist and marketing strategist, likes to describe her in basic technical terms, particularly when talking about safety risks.

ChihiraKanae has a steel pulse, says Tokuda. That makes her ideal for carrying out repetitive duties day and night with the same relaxed and friendly demeanour, in a confined space and without extensive training. Currently, she can deliver around 300 programmed responses, can recognise faces and provide information in any language. Giving her tasks in limited areas makes configuring her a lot easier. Unlike many other robot colleagues, ChihiraKanae’s facial features make an important psychological difference, says Tokuda. In the long term, he sees giving artificially intelligent systems the ability to comprehend and communicate freely as the biggest challenge.

Isabel Bommer

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