When Robots replace Humans – Interview with Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro

Prof. Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro is the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, part of the Department of Systems Innovation in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University (JP). His research has contributed to investigation of human like robots and the interaction with humans. For his recent projects, he has been using g.Nautilus, the wireless EEG cap from g.tec, to control his robots. We had the chance to chat with Dr. Ishiguro about his work and his use of g.Nautilus.

ARS ELECTRONICA 2009 | HUMAN NATURE: Featured Artist - Hiroshi Ishiguro, Photo: rubra
© rubra

Dr. Ishiguro, we just watched the video on a Swiss TV-Channel (SRF) about “Robots that replace Humans”, in which Prof. Rolf Pfeiffer visited your lab in order to introduce your research. We are very excited and proud that you use one of our products, the wireless EEG cap g.Nautilus, to control your robots by EEG.
Dr. Ishiguro:
“The recent experiment that has been shown in a brief scene in the video is a successor of our previous experiment where we used g.USBamp. As in the prior experiment, we controlled humanlike robotic hands by brain activity that aroused illusion of ownership in operators. This approach was inducted by controlling the robot’s motions through a brain-computer interface (BCI). The results show the interaction between motor commands and visual feedback of the intended motions. This project will contribute to improvement of tele-presence systems, in which people control robots with BCIs to manage their own body representations.“

More details about the experiment in Nature and Frontiers

What is your aim of creating humanoid robots?
Dr. Ishiguro: “One of the major goals of my projects is to understand what a human being is like. How our brain recognizes people as humans still remains somewhat unclear. To further explore this, we have investigated human-robot interaction through our two complementary approaches, which are:

  • developing a very human-like robot (e.g. Geminoid™) and
  • a robot with minimum features that still looks human (e.g. Telenoid).

Our hypothesis is the best interface when such communication occurs should be somewhat human-like, because our brain can relate the most when facing other humans.”

More details: Research of Hiroshi Ishiguro


Do you actually use your robots as an „Avatar“ of you?
Dr. Ishiguro: “It depends on how you view avatars. For example, I use my Geminoid™ robot operating at a distance to give a lecture at a conference where I am absent. This way, the audience is able to appreciate my presence to some extent. If the Geminoid™ robot gets hurt materially, its operator never gets hurt physically, unlike avatars in a movie. Interestingly though, studies show some operators “feel” pain as if they share the robot’s feelings.“

Screenshot_Bericht_7© SRF

You are using Brain-Computer Interfaces, especially the g.Nautilus, for your research. What are you working on? And what is your aim in that field?
Dr. Ishiguro:
“We have several ongoing studies using g.tec products. One of these studies is to extend human arm control to new approaches that control more than two arms. It is part of a Japanese government project that aims to actualize energetic life by creating brain information industries. The approach is to create portable Brain-Computer Interfaces, brain big data and brain robotics to successfully enhance brain anti-aging services, education and information fields.”

Read more about this project: Actualize Energetic Life by Creating Brain Information Industries



What benefits do you see in using g.Nautilus?
Dr. Ishiguro: “The best things are the wireless functionality and fixed electrode positions. It’s very easy to use and fast in setting up.”

Watch the Video on SRF: When Robots replace Humans