Book Review: How to Build An Android: The True Story Of Phillip K Dick’s Robotic Resurrection by David Dufty (Kindle Edition.)

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Books

Android

In 2005 a team of roboticists headed by David Hanson got the idea to build an android head of science fiction writer Phillip K Dick.  Dick was the writer of many seminal books featuring robots, including Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep, and Through A Scanner Darkly.  Hanson had worked with Disney Imagineering and had already built robot heads that had elements of facial recognition.  Cameras mounted as eyes would recognize faces in the crowd of people, and mirror the people’s expressions.  Hanson was a sculptor, who built faces with realistic expressions using motors to replicate human expressions.  Hanson also created a synthetic skin called Frubber, which looked a lot like human skin.  He was teamed with Andrew Olney a linguistic specialist with the goal of creating a conversational robot with the “memories” of Phillip K Dick.

Hanson and Olney had many obstacles to overcome, funding, building a robot that could speak, with voice recognition, facial recognition, background noise reduction, and enough knowledge of Phillip K. Dick’s work and life to have a meaningful conversation with strangers.

This is an amazing book, before I read this book, I really thought androids and robots were the purview of science fiction alone, but to know that there are real people taking on projects like this is exciting beyond words.  The author was working on a fellowship at the time the android was being developed, and worked on the project, so it was like being there as this project was coming to fruition Hanson is something of a renaissance man, sculptor, developer of artificial skin, at the same time a guy with a keen interest in science fiction.  His life and his work, and the obstacles he had to overcome made this book an interesting read.  And the author provided a generous helping of Phillip K Dick’s work, I had only seen movie adaptations of his work Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau  A Scanner Darkly, now I want to read some Phillip K. Dick’s books.

If you enjoy robotics or science fiction becoming science fact, you will love this book.  I sure did.

How To Build An Android:  Terminate what you’re doing, and read this book.

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