May 11, 2012 at 6:51 PM ET
From the get-go, you have to expect a robotic butt to be pretty weird. But to be fair, there are potential applications: training proctologists and massage therapists about that region, for instance. There are similar things to train dentists and joint specialists, after all. Problem is, the creators of this robotic butt don't seem to have had any practical considerations in mind at all. It's not a medical accessory, or a therapeutic device. It's just a twitching, quivering, hissing robotic butt.
The creators say that the robot, called Shiri, "represents emotions with visual and tactual transformation of the muscles." Furthermore, it is an attempt "to approach the creation of sensitive and subtle expression by a humanoid robot using organic constructs."
In pursuit of this goal, the creators nautrally chose the most expressive organ: the butt.
The following video may technically be "safe for work," but you may want to exercise vigilance if watching it in a public space regardless.
Under a skin of silicone, there is a foam superstructure and then the "gluteus maximus actuator," a pair of pneumatically activated muscles that can be inflated or deflated to simulate the many subtle moods of the butt.
It responds to slaps and caresses and expresses emotions with various forms of shuddering, clenching, twitching and pulsating. The researchers are apparently replicating a form of articulating butt hitherto unknown to science.
The individual who demonstrates the butt's capabilities, possibly the inventor himself, Nobuhiro Takahashi of the University of Electro-Communications in Japan, performs his functions with perhaps more care and verve than is necessary.
We in the msnbc.com newsroom confess ourselves somewhat puzzled by Takahashi's project, but his previous work, including a machine that allows you to hug yourself and a remote kissing device, helps provide context.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.