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I went to a Japanese cultural exhibit at the Kennedy Center. The crowd pleasing favorites were the robots. This guy rolls around answering questions in a chipper voice and shaking hands:
He’d make a great politician if his answers were a little more vague.
This robot, made by Toyota, plays the trumpet using a complicated air pump system and lips that mimic those of a human:
Yes, he (she? it?) actually played the trumpet by blowing air into the instrument and pressing the valves with his fingers. He leaned and swayed side to side and backwards like a real musician getting caught up in the emotions of playing a song. He blasted out a couple of pop songs from the 1970s and a Disney tune. The sound was good and not as stilted or mechanical as I expected. A trumpet playing robot is pretty amazing but it’s not yet at the point where it can capture the fluidity and sensuality of a human master musician. Still, I tapped my feet.
A robot baby seal serves as a therapeutic aid to nursing home residents and sick children:
Aw, those soulful eyes. Guess what. If you scratch its face it will turn to the side you are scratching to look at you in appreciation and purr. You can feel the vibrations of the purr if you put your hand on its neck, just like a cat. Touch its whiskers and it makes an annoyed yip and turns away. Stroke its back and it will show its approval with a tail wag and squeals of delight. The makers of this $3500 toy say the noises the seal makes are an exact replica of the noises made by real baby seals in the wild. I asked if it came packaged with a club; the seal growled and a machine gun barrel protruded from its mouth. I moved on.
This is how the robot baby seal feeds recharges:
Check out the pacifier-shaped connectors. The Japanese are weird. If this had been a German product, the plug would’ve been in the ass.
Hmm, now what does this robot remind me of?
What I learned from this cultural exchange:
- The Japanese are really smart.
- It says something stereotypical about the Japanese that they are leading the robot revolution.
- The Japanese are confronting their demographic implosion and xenophobia head-on by investing in robots instead of importing tens of millions of antagonistic peasants to do the work that Japanese just won’t do.
- We should be opening the borders to cute Japanese girls in pleated skirts and knee high stockings.
- Americans should be ashamed we are falling way behind the robotics race.
- Americans are no longer ashamed of things that are worthy of shame.
- The Japanese understand that a society of robots is superior to a society of lawyers.
- It would not surprise me if an unmarried Japanese-American man were the first to invent a sexbot.
- The robot in the last photo is hotter than 80% of American women.
- I’d tap that.