Realizing future storefronts: Staring at you, creepily (video)

Summary:Shinjuku's Takashimaya is displaying a unique new android for it's Valentines Day spread, a new 'model' designed to replace storefront mannequins.

Snow White, cursed by a poisoned apple, waited in a sleeping state inside a glass coffin until her Prince Charming showed up to give her the kiss of life (or just the Heimlich maneuver, depending on which version you're reading).

For this year's Valentines, 'Geminoid' is recreating that romantic fairy tale in Shinjuku's Takashimaya department store.

In her beautiful glass cage, surrounded by cute --- if unoriginal Valentine's Day gifts --- like perfume and chocolate, 'Geminoid' sits and plays with her phone; the very image of a normal, every day Japanese woman.

On the glass is written the strange little message: "Android falls in love? She is waiting for you." It's a romantic image, and if it weren't for the gigantic glass cage, you might genuinely pass her by unnoticed.

She's distressingly real to look at, and had gathered quite a fascinated crowd with camera phones at the ready, gasping 'sugoiiii' ("cool!") at her realistic fidgeting.

For me, the strangest part was when she yawned, the kind of inconsequential act you would never think to programme into an android, except to throw them right into Freud's 'uncanny' territory. It didn't make it any less creepy that when I raised my camera to take a picture she actually turned and smiled at me.

Smiling for her picture; words simply cannot describe.

This particular android, designed by Prof. Hiroshi Ishigiro at Osaka University, Japan, is designed to be the perfect store mannequin.

"Retailers would love to use real fashion models in their store windows, but it isn't practical," says Ishigiro, "Using an android like this realizes the store windows of the future."

The android reacts to what is going on around her based on data from sensors, meaning she actually does acknowledge the presence of fascinated onlookers.

So, when there's a whole crowd prodding and poking at her glass enclosure, she has no choice but to smile at them and yawn, looking a little embarrassed and tired of all the attention if you ask me.

This, of course, is the point of the 'romantic' angle in the spread. "What is this android feeling when you look at it? That's quite fun to imagine."

The suggestive phrase that, "she's waiting for you", seems to me, to be trying to invoke the image of a dream girl, beautiful and real, whose attention you can try to catch by gawping at her.

For me it's not really like that. What I see, instead, is my shopping experiences in Tokyo becoming very odd in the near future. The idea of specifically programmed, overly realistic androids staring at me whilst I window shop is more terrifying than appealing.

Realistically, how long will it be before I'm sitting in a restaurant where half the customers are androids, designed to make it look popular? Or admiring a pretty dress and getting death glares from the android wearing it, who doesn't appreciate me gawping at it as if I am some sort of pervert?

What do you think?

Related:

Topics: Android

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