The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) on Tuesday unveiled three humanoid robots that are to be put on display so visitors can interact with them.
Two of the machines were modeled on actual human forms, using special silicone and artificial muscles that resemble and move like the real thing.
Named Otonaroid (Adultroid) and Kodomoroid (Childroid), the robots are able to perform a number of tasks, including welcoming visitors to the museum in Tokyo's Odaiba district — a job they were to start Wednesday.
Otonaroid resembles a woman. It sits on a couch and responds to comments and is said to be able to carry on a general conversation.
Visitors will be invited to control the machine, prompting it to speak and see its facial expressions change.
Kodomoroid resembles a human child. Its developer bills it as the world's first robot news reader, saying it can deliver news from around the world.
There is also another robot called Telenoid that is about the size of a baby. It, too, will interact with visitors and can be remotely controlled in the same way as Otonaroid.
The exhibition, titled "Androids — What is Human?" aims to explore what makes humans tick.
The machines were developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University who specializes in humanoid robotics.
"We've been wanting to exhibit Mr. Ishiguro's robots for a long time . . . we are very excited," said Mahoro Uchida, who heads the museum's exhibition development division.
Uchida said the exhibition is expected to run for at least three years.
Ishiguro said his research has focused heavily on the nature of humanity and he designs robots to explore that question.
"To create something that helps humans, we need to know what humans are," he said.