Back in 2007, Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev welcomed a new robot receptionist named Ms. Saya from Japan. Saya, according to a video posted by the Associated Press this week, was able to say hello, say goodbye, and deliver the room numbers of university staffers. Not great, but not bad for 2007:
In a paper discussing Saya's movements, researchers described at the time the attempt to make interactions with Saya feel natural:
"We experimentally investigated expression-timing, angle and angular velocity of the human 'Speaker's nod,' and we implemented "Speaker's nod" to SAYA based on the investigation results."
In the video, Saya says "I'm surprised," and makes a 'surprised' face. She says, "I'm sad," and makes a sad face. She says, "I'm angry," and makes an angry face. Except none of these faces resemble human surprise, sorrow, or anger. They do, however, mimic pretty well the awkward faces we all make when we are feeling uncomfortable:
This one takes the cake.
We feel you, Saya.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.