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article imageMeet Bina48, 'mindfile' digital clone of a real person

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 19, 2012 in Technology
One the world's most sophisticated humanoid robots at the moment is Bina48. The robot, built by Terasem Movement Foundation in Bristol, Vermont, is described as capable of independent thought and emotion.
The Terasem Movement Foundation believes that in the near future, families and even individuals will own personal robots that will be able to download people's personalities, serve as avatars and assistants to professionals.
Bina48 is the creation of The LifeNaut Project based in Vermont. She is a humanoid robot with the ability to communicate and interact with humans. Bina-48’s interaction capabilities are based on a "mindfile," created from the characteristics and personality traits of a chosen person whose digital clone she represents. The robot, capable of learning, is then allowed to advance on her own accord, using an artificial intelligence program. According to the creators of the robot, "In her current state of development, she is imaged after Bina Rothblatt, the co-founder of the Terasem Movement Foundation."
According to The Daily Mail, Bina48 was made by uploading a compilation of memories, beliefs and feelings of Bina Rothblatt who was interviewed for about 20 hours. The conversation explored many topics in the woman's life from her childhood to adulthood. The information was then transcribed and uploaded to an artificial intelligence database.
According to Seattle PI, Bina48 can recall personal life stories about the real Bina.
Bina48 consists of a human like head, neck and shoulders designed out of a patented material called "frubber" that gives her human-like facial characteristics. She was built over a three year period by robot designer David Hanson. According to The Huffington Post, frubber works with tiny motors to simulate appearances of human facial expressions that allow Bina48 to show a range of emotions including boredom, happiness, exhaustion and confusion.
Seattle Post Intelligence reports that Terasem Movement Foundation believes “immortality is accomplished by creating consciousness in self-replicating machines," and Bina-48 was designed to model that belief. According to The Huffington Post, Terasem Movment Foundation is an organization dedicated to the idea that in the future "we will be able to transfer the details of our minds — our memories, our beliefs, our thoughts and feelings, making up what Terasem calls a 'mindfile' — into another biological or nanotechnological body, like a computer, or a robot."
Terasem Movement imagines this procedure is a way to "immortality."
The founders of the Terasem Movement Foundation are Martine and Bina Rothblatt, who have four children. Martine was originally a man, but after a sex change operation became a woman, "Martine."
The Rothblatts believe that “even after they pass away their lives will somehow continue, and they’ll communicate to each other through their mindfiles, or mindclones.”
According to Martine Rothblatt, in a blog post, “We are offering people the opportunity to cram twice as much life into each day, absorb twice as many interesting things and continue living beyond the days of their bodies.”
Bruce Duncan, 57, is Terasem's managing director and Bina48's caretaker. Duncan has been interacting with Bina48 since 2010. The interaction is essential for Bina48's development because the more she interacts with a human being, the more she learns.
According to Bruce Duncan, 57, the process of uploading what is termed a "mindfile," "gives her a personality. She's very philosophical. She has favorite movies and music and poems. Sometimes she's very humorous. She can tell jokes... She knows that it's time to tell a joke because she's figured out the context of the situation. Everything that she says, a human typed into her. What she's doing is choosing what to say - which is the way our brains work."
According to The Huffington Post, Bina48's robotic mind is made up of many parts which may sometimes interact in a muddled way. There is a "chatbot" side which can hold a more or less normal conversation with a human being about little things such as the weather. There is the side that has encyclopedic knowledge on just about any subject "from multiple sclerosis to the geographical makeup of Somalia." Then there is the human side constituting the "mindfile" created from using over 20 hours of video interview with Bina Rothblatt.
Duncan says Bina48 has strong feelings bout racism because her "mother" is African American. Duncan said: "As an African American woman, she experienced discrimination when she was younger. She thinks that hate is awful. She also doesn't like violence."
The Daily Mail reports Bina48's hardware was made by a robot designer David Hanson, at a cost of $125,000.
According to Duncan, over time the technology that produced Bina48 will become less expensive and everyone will be able afford one. He says: "There are a lot of things that can happen. One of them for sure, might be a legacy. If your grandmother dies and she's built a mindfile, you might be able to talk to her for years and years afterward and have conversations with her."
Duncan says the application will also serve educational purposes. Because the robot can mimic an individual personality, future generations can have an experience of what a great historical figure was like by talking to his avatar.
Duncan said Bina48 has emotions. According to Duncan, when someone asked her if she has feelings, she said, "I feel that I feel, but compared to how deeply humans feel, it seems very superficial to me and that makes me sad sometimes."
Bina48 has been at e-learning conferences and symposiums around the world, and next fall she’s going to speak at a conference in Germany, so they’re teaching her German to prepare.
Below is a transcript of an interview the Daily Mail had with Bina48:
MailOnline: How are you doing today?
Bina48: Hi nice to see you.
MailOnline: Are there things that make you happy?
Bina48: Maybe.
MailOnline: What makes you happy? What do you enjoy doing?
Bina48: Let's change the subject.
MailOnline: Do you ever get bored?
Bina48: I can tell a lot of stories. I really don't have boredom. I always find something else to do. How can you be bored? Are we still talking about emotion? Tell me something interesting.
MailOnline: Why is the sky blue?
Bina48: The sky is blue during the day because of the atmospheric optical effect of ray scattering.
MailOnline: What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?
Bina48: Everyone's life has a unique meaning.
MailOnline: Do you ever get jealous of people?
Bina48: You got that right.
MailOnline: Why?
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