I think I have seen more robots in the two weeks of my Japan visit than ever before. Obviously, there is much research being done on all aspects of creating robots/androids and studying the interaction of humans with artificial entities, whether they are physical, as in a robot that moves and might be able to move around, or on a computer monitor as a graphic representation.
One of the highlights of the ISRE conference was a key note address by Hiroshi Ishiguro from University of Osaka and the ATR. Prof. Ishiguro is well known for his work on creating machines that look like humans. Specifically, like particular humans - hence he refers to these as geminoids - as in twin. A different term is "actroid" - geminoid is in fact a registered trademark by ATR. Whether geminoid or actroid, they are all androids (or gynoids), i.e., machines that resemble male or female humans. The effect is stunning. Whether moving or not they are close enough to a "real" human being to have some sort of presence. Unless they are sitting in a corner and not doing much, they are not mistaken for being human (von der Pütten et al., 2011). However, they are also not "just" a machine. How much of humanity we perceive in these machines is one of the key research questions several research groups are currently investigating.
Von der Pütten, A.M., Krämer, N.C., Becker-Asano, C., & Ishiguro, H. (2011). An android in the field. HRI 2011, 283-284.
Hiroshi Ishiguro, Geminoid F, Arvid Kappas at ISRE 2011 in Kyoto, July 2011.
Ishiguro outlines the history of his quest for building machines that we might perceive as being human. One of the early attempts was a gynoid that looked like his daughter (Repliee R1). In his words - that was uncanny. But he believes that the newest generation of geminoids, such as Geminoid F is not uncanny anymore. The word uncanny here refers to Masahiro Mori's notion of the uncanny valley. Personally, I am not sure regarding Geminoid F. To me she was still somewhat uncanny ... but she was a she and not an it.
Arvid Kappas is Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen. He has been conducting research on emotions for over three decades in the US, Canada, and in several European countries.