One might think that a mannequin in a store window that suddenly starts pulling a few moves would be enough to make shoppers jump out of their skin, but looking at a video of one that has recently appeared in the window of a department store in Tokyo shows shoppers appear to be unfazed. Perhaps their nonchalant reaction should come as little surprise in a country where robotic technology is the norm.
The android is the creation of Dr Hiroshi Ishiguro, famed for his work on Geminoid robots at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Ishiguro recently got together with the folks at Takashimaya, a department store located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku entertainment district, to give the tired old mannequin a refresh in an effort to grab the attention of passing shoppers.
As part of a Valentine’s Day promotion, they came up with the robotic mannequin, an extremely lifelike android that sits in the department store’s window smiling, nodding and shuffling about a bit in her chair. Thanks to special software, she can even interact with her surroundings, emitting the occasional yawn as she waits for a shopper to come close and gawp at her. The creation is capable of more than 60 different facial expressions, and can convey various emotional states too.
Reporting on the innovation, Japan Trends says it believes it’s the first time a robotic mannequin like this has been used in a commercial setting.
“I see this as the future of shop displays,” he said. Pointing at a more traditional, static mannequin close by, he added, “They don’t represent real life at all which is what I see as the point of some displays.”
Natural movement is everything to Ishiguro, and he was keen to make sure his special mannequin was as realistic-looking as possible. “We have tried to make it more lifelike through not programming her to react to every shopper in sudden movements but in a more natural way and arranged her in a pose as if waiting for someone,” he said.
According to Japan Trends, Ishiguro’s robot created quite a stir among passing shoppers, with some even unsure as to whether it was actually a real person.
The mannequin is certainly a remarkable piece of work, and one can see why some people might have to look twice to confirm that it is indeed a robot rather than a real person. Whether moving window displays are the future depends on the response of shoppers, but if store owners feel it helps consumers connect more closely with a product and brings more people through the doors, one can well imagine larger shops such as department stores may be willing to invest money in turning their window displays into a more moving experience.
[Video: Japan Trends]