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This 'self-guided' robot is about as sentient as a wind chime

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Japan's National Science Museum unveiled a new exhibit last month: a creepy-looking robot that's powered by 42 pneumatic actuators and its own neural network. According to a report from Engadget, this neural net (which is modeled, in a very broad sense, after the brain's own system of neurons) is programmed to respond to its environment — with the robot's movements and strange vocalizations reacting to information from sensors detecting movement, temperature, and humidity.

The idea was to create a robot that can guide its own actions. You can argue that just like a human being, Alter is responding to external stimuli rather than following strict patterns of behavior. The neural network controlling the android has also been given a "loose degree of flexibility," writes Engadget's Mat Smith, allowing its movements to adjust and change "on the system's own volition."

A video posted by Mat (@thtmtsmth) on

While this model of control is certainly rudimentary, one of Alter's creator, Osaka University's Kouhei Ogawa, told Engadget that it makes it easy to make a robot that operates for long periods of time without human supervision. And while Alter is, technically, moving on its own, it's not particularly self-aware. In a manner of speaking, it's just swaying in the breeze: arms flapping, mouth tunelessly singing, as it reacts to its surroundings. On second thought, that sounds pretty human after all.