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Sign-language robot ChihiraAico shows off its singing voice

by

Staff Writer

Seven months after Toshiba Corp. surprised the public with a humanoid robot that can communicate using sign language, the same device is now serenading shoppers at a Tokyo department store by singing duets with a human partner.

ChihiraAico, an uncannily human-like robot, made its debut at last year’s CEATEC consumer electronics trade show. On Friday, a human soprano and a clarinetist joined the robot for a 15-minute set at the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo.

Soprano Shoko Iwata stood and sang with gusto as the seated ChihiraAico moved its head and mouth and rendered a prerecorded voice for two songs: “Chiisai Aki Mitsuketa” and “Grandfather’s Clock.”

The performance drew about 20 shoppers.

It is often said that one hurdle for robots to be widely used in the future is whether they can find a niche in human society without provoking worry about the impact.

Hitoshi Tokuda, chief specialist at Toshiba’s office for marketing strategy, said the company wanted to use the performance to show that ChihiraAico can coexist with people.

He added that Toshiba is currently replicating the robot and will debut a second one around June.

ChihiraAico is 163 cm tall and appeared dressed in a yukata. She can be seen singing short 15-minute sets at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. until Tuesday. There will be no 1 p.m. show on Saturday and no 4 p.m. show on Monday.