Android version of literary giant Natsume Soseki to return to alma mater to lecture

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Staff Writer

Nishogakusha University is getting a new professor, an android version of literary giant Natsume Soseki that will teach classes in commemoration of the opening of the 140-year-old institution next year.

This year also marks the centennial of the death of the novelist who studied Chinese literature at the private university in Tokyo in 1881.

In cooperation with Hiroshi Ishiguro, a robotics researcher at Osaka University who is famous for creating an android of himself, the university plans to have the Soseki robot recite the author’s own works, as well as some Chinese poems, from next April.

“It’s often said that high school students today don’t read books,” said Kaori Echigoya, a spokeswoman for the university, which also runs junior and senior high schools. “We value Japanese language education. By recreating Soseki through the help of professor Ishiguro, we would like to nurture interest in reading and literature among students.”

The voice of Soseki’s grandson, Fusanosuke Natsume, a manga critic, will be used to help artificially recreate his famous grandfather’s voice.

Furthermore, to make the android appear as real and lifelike as possible, the team building it is using a death mask of the novelist that belongs to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The university scanned the mask to create a three-dimensional image of his face. Soseki once penned serialized fiction such as “Kokoro” for the daily, which propelled him to fame.

Still, it is said the android might be friendlier than the writer himself was.

“Soseki was known for his ill temper, and there’s not a single picture of him that shows him smiling,” his grandson told reporters Tuesday. “I hope to see him smile in the android version.”

The robotic replica of the author will also give a lecture in October 2017 at an event marking the university’s anniversary, school officials said.