Created by Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, along with Kyoto University, ERICA is a conversational android who is continuously being improved so she can engage in fully human-level dialogue. The latest step in her evolution has been the inclusion of “backchanneling” and attentive listening systems. What does that mean? She’s more like a real girlfriend person.

Oh, hi, Mark!

Simply put: ERICA now says “uh huh” and asks “really?” when she is listening to you, instead of just nodding along. Less simply put: the research team realised that human conversation requires a range of activities which go beyond making appropriate facial expressions, and responding when it’s your turn to speak. It’s one thing for a human being to master the art of conversation – and many of us never do – so you can imagine the work going into enabling ERICA to become an advanced reconnaissance unit awesome conversationalist.

According to team member Tatsuyo Kawahara, in order to breakdown the complexities of backchanneling, the team looked at three elements: “timing — when a response happens; lexical form — what is being said; and prosody, or how the response happens.”

Now, why does anyone want a robot to be able to seamlessly mimic human interaction? In order to take over the world pass a Total Turing Test, of course!

Check out a short video of ERICA chatting it up below.