Developed by a group of scientists at Japan’s Kagawa University, this terrifying looking device is a robotic mouth that works to mimic human speech.
Constructed from a blend of types of silicone rubber, the lengthy robot works by having air pumped through a section which resembles human vocal chords, which causes vibrations. Mechanical parts under the mouth then move to change the volume of air within parts of the mouth. This allows for word-like sounds to be formed.
On top of the mouth sits a plaster nose, which is responsible for helping to produce “m” and “n” sounds, and looks like it was designed by someone who has never seen a human nose.
But the most unsettling appendage is the silicone tongue inside the mouth – the part that allows the production of “r” sounds.
Don’t underestimate this robot. It isn’t just a rubber sleeve. It actually teaches itself to sound more human through auditory feedback – continually listening to the sounds it is creating (and those around it) via a microphone.
“Even if a person doesn’t know a word or what it means, they can make the sound of the word,” says Hideyuki Sawada, one of the professors who worked on the project. “That is, people use data they’ve already learned to guess how to move the inside of their mouth to make a certain sound.”
While the robot doesn’t have the capacity to learn every sound, it can still estimate the movement that it will need to make in order to copy a sound that it has heard.
Scientist in Japan made a robotic mouth that goes "AH EEE OOO UUUU".
What a time to be alive!
— Graeme (@gw0001) April 23, 2014
The progress that has been made during a decade of work is astounding, but we can’t help but wonder where to from here?
For Sawada and his team, the next step will be to install a set of teeth in the mouth. This will allow for the production of fricative consonants such as “f” and “s.”
That’s right folks. If you were scared before, you better prepare yourselves for the massive, moving silicone sleeve to be filled with teeth.
Also, we hate to be the ones to have to point it out but it kinda definitely totally looks like a big sex toy.
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