New Robot Doesn't Need Humans to Control it

artificial intelligence alter robot japan
An android named 'Alter,' developed by researchers at Tokyo University and Osaka University, at a press preview, Tokyo, July 29. The android can move its head, eyes, mouth, body and hands thanks to a neural network. TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

A new type of robot that can control its own limbs and facial expressions independently of human input has been unveiled in Japan.

The Atler robot instead uses its own neural network that allows it to respond to its environment through an array of sensors that detect sound, temperature, humidity and proximity.

Developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo and Osaka University, Atler is currently on display at Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

Alter relies on 42 pneumatic actuators and a "central pattern generator" (CPG), which allows it to make its own decisions. The CPG is based on an artificial model for neurons called the Izhikevich neuron that gives it human-like movements.

Particular movements were assigned to particular situations and circumstances by the researchers—for example, its torso shudders when it senses a nearby crowd of people.

"Alter doesn't look like a human," Kouhei Ogawa, a researcher at Osaka University, told tech blog Engadget. "It doesn't really move like a human. However, it certainly has a presence.

"Until now, making androids talk or interact for ten minutes was an incredible amount of hard work—simply to program something to react for that long. Alter, moving for itself, can do so easily."

Japan's fascination for robots has seen hotels staffed by humanoid robots, smartphones in the form of robots, and attempts to create "emotional robots" capable of forming bonds with humans.