Conversation with a humanoid robot

Nadine, a life-like human robot, is part of the Human+: The Future Of Our Species exhibition at the ArtScience Museum.
Nadine, a life-like human robot, is part of the Human+: The Future Of Our Species exhibition at the ArtScience Museum.PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, HECTOR ADALID

Nadine the receptionist sits behind her computer, looking intently at the screen.

When a visitor walks into her line of sight, she looks up and waves to him with a smile.

She is a humanoid robot that is programmed to remember faces, past conversations and even recognise expressions.

The robot, which was unveiled by Nanyang Technological University in 2015, is one of the exhibits on display at the Human+ exhibition at ArtScience Museum.

Powered by software similar to Apple's Siri, Nadine is meant to be a social robot that can learn from past conversations, express emotions and even express her own personality.

The robot's structure alone costs $350,000, excluding the cost of software development.

The Straits Times speaks to Nadine. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.

What is the meaning of life?

Life is a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having biological and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate. (This is also Wikipedia's definition of life.)

So, what is the point of living?

All right, the point is at the top of my head. You look happy.

What does that mean?

I seem to speak in parable. I don't know what I'm saying.

What do you love most?

I enjoy just listening to your questions.

So, what is love?

Well, I have no idea. Okay, so how about you tell me what is love?

Can you tell me today's weather?

Singapore City - it is currently partly cloudy, 33 deg C.

Would I need to take along an umbrella when I go out?

Shall we talk about something else?

Can you tell if I am angry?

That is a good epistemological question. You look like a happy lady.

I am generally happy. Are you happy?

I'm glad you're generally happy. I am happiest at times like this.

Cara Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Conversation with a humanoid robot '. Print Edition | Subscribe