BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR CHRISTINA HARTMAN
It's creepy. It's robotic. And it's from Japan. Prepare to be skeeved out.
Say hello to Shiri, a robotic butt from The University of Electro-Communications. It can twitch and tense up using its artificial muscles, and responds differently to being poked, caressed, or slapped. (Video source: YouTube/novriki)
The butt-otics researchers say the Shiri project has two goals: to use technology in an innovative way, and to explore the emotional interactions between humans and robots. Weird... but, as far as the first one goes, Popular Science says it's actually pretty cool.
"The artificial posterior is comprised of a silicon skin and a 'rigid urethane skeleton,' in a full-scale size. Mostly it looks like each 'cheek' is a little red airbag, with modulating pressure that gives it its reaction."
As for that second goal, the researchers said they want to explore how people feel as they communicate with Shiri. It should be easy to get a reaction, when you consider how creepy this thing is. TIME has that one pretty well figured out.
"For example, when poked, the robot can quiver in fear. Rub it and it will protrude, which is supposed to signify happiness, although all you'll be feeling is deep shame."
Shiri, which means "buttocks" in Japanese, isn't the first bizarre robot to come out of this lab. Discovery News says — these researchers have a track record.
"In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, Shiri was built by none other than Nobuhiro Takahashi and his team... If you recall, Takahashi was responsible for the equally creepy kiss transmitter device that lets people make out over the Internet. I'm no mathematician, but I can put two and two together."
And of course, the internet being what it is, there had to be jokes. Here are a few from the big tech blogs. TIME went with the pop culture reference.
"Professor Mix-a-Lot could not be reached for comment."
Kotaku — a pun.
"Boy, sometimes science sure is cheeky."
And io9 — well this one got downright philosophical.
"For what good is sentience if one cannot feel — and what good is feeling, if one cannot feel it upon one's ass cheeks?"
But on a serious note... you know what? I've got nothing.