March 19, 2009 Fashion modeling could one day be dominated by identical, fake-looking, soulless robots thanks to Japanese researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. But the synthetic supermodels will be different to their skin-and-bone counterparts in one important way – at two million dollars they’ll likely to be cheaper.

Researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) on Monday unveiled the HRP-4C robot in a mock fashion show, which showcased the versatile facial expressions and motions of the bot, rather than the outfit of the month.

The robot has 42 motion motors in its body, and can imitate a variety of facial expressions. With black, shoulder-length hair, a petit frame and large eyes, the 158cm tall robot was designed to resemble a manga character.

"If we had made the robot too similar to a real human, it would have been uncanny," said humanoid research leader Shuji Kajita. "We have deliberately leaned toward an anime style."

The robot weighs in at 45kg, including batteries, and cost 200 million yen (two million dollars) to develop. Researchers put the cost of the core model at US$200,000.

HRP-4C will next be seen on March 23, at a Tokyo fashion show.

Kyle Sherer

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