Erica is 23 years old and she lives in Kyoto at the ATR Institute. She speaks in a slightly robotized voice with a pleasant British accent. She’s an autonomous human-like android that even knows a few robot jokes. Her architect, Dr. Dylan Glas, has been working with her for about two years, trying to create her mind and her personality.
This robot is Hiroshi Ishiguro’s dream. He set out to create technology that could change the world. The idea is to automate the tedious tasks that humans perform daily so that they can then focus on more fulfilling activities. When asked why he started working on this project, Dr. Ishiguro’s response is that he wanted to study humans; he was interested in finding answers to questions such as what does it mean to think? What does it mean to have a personality?
Dr. Ishiguro now leads the biggest scientific project in Japan. It’s called JST ERATO and the objective is to create a robot that can think, act, and basically do everything completely on its own. Right now Erica is unable to move her arms and legs, but the team is confident that they will be able to accomplish that some day in the near future.
Because most people in Japan believe that everything has a soul, Hiroshi and his team are convinced that Erica has a soul also and they wish to portray her as being warm, gentle, and caring. Erica might not be a person according to the traditional definition, but she’s certainly not a machine. Maybe she’s a new kind of thing in a different category that we haven’t been able to define as yet, due to a lack of the appropriate vocabulary.