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Media Release

For Immediate Release | September 5, 2017

Human Meets Robot – A Talk Series on Social Robotics

The Japan Foundation, Sydney presents Human Meets Robot, a talk event series that delves into Japan’s ‘robot revolution’—a quest to broadly integrate robotic technologies across society to address growing concerns for the nation’s ageing population and shrinking workforce.

Talks from a broad range of disciplines will provide audiences with a deeper appreciation of Japan’s affinity for robots. We will consider the roles social robots will play in our future societies, and highlight the areas in which we should tread with caution.

Invited guest speakers from Australia and Japan include:

  • Dr Elena Knox (performance and media art);
  • Prof Takashi Ikegami (complex systems and artificial life);
  • Tomomi Ota (media design);
  • Dr Yuji Sone (theatre and performance studies); and,
  • Naho Kitano (sociology).

All talks will be held at The Japan Foundation, Sydney from September 21 until November 2, 2017.


Like a Person – Humanoid Robots in Performance
By Dr Elena Knox (Waseda University)
September 21, 2017 | 6.30pm

Tokyo-based performance and media artist Dr Elena Knox presents a discussion on the creative and cultural interpretations of humanoid robots in Japan and other nations. Viewing select scenes from robots’ screen performances, her talk will consider ideas about immortality, jobs, appearances, computation, and the “life” of the robots who will resemble us.

Still from video work Pathetic Fallacy (2014) by Dr Elena Knox, featuring Geminoid-F of Osaka University’s Ishiguro Lab.

The Future of AI in the Arts
By Prof Takashi Ikegami (University of Tokyo)
October 3, 2017 | 6pm

Can a robot produce art? Join us for an eye-opening talk on developing the world’s first android-led opera “Scary Beauty”, performed by Skeleton of Osaka University’s Ishiguro Lab, and consider the deeper implications and future possibilities for artificial intelligence, or AI, in the arts.

Skeleton of Osaka University’s Ishiguro Lab (photo by Justine Emard).

Robot as Companion
By Tomomi Ota (
Chaired by Dr Yuji Sone (Macquarie University)
October 12, 2017 | 6.30pm

Media designer Tomomi Ota presents her experience cohabitating with social robot Pepper and introduces her philosophy on human-robot-interaction in this enlightening talk. A short interview chaired by Dr Yuji Sone, author of Japanese Robot Culture: Performance, Imagination, and Modernity, will follow the talk.

Tomomi Ota ( with Pepper (photo by Pierre-Olivier).

Business Development & Roboethics – A Japanese Entrepreneur’s Perspective
By Naho Kitano (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
November 2, 2017 | 6.30pm

As robot participation in society becomes the norm, how should new robotic technolgies be ethically integrated into society? Robot sociologist and entrepreneur Naho Kitano sheds light on how the concept of ‘ethics’ in Japan and the West differs, and how a humanities-based approach may assist us to answer this question.

Hibot Corp’s Amphibious snake-like robot ACM-R5H (photo courtesy of Hibot Corp).

Please note: Due to the nature of the technologies discussed in this series, the talks will not include demonstrations of the robots featured in this media release.



Dr Elena Knox is a media and performance artist. Currently a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) research fellow in Intermedia Art and Science at Waseda University, Tokyo, she gained her PhD from UNSW Art & Design, researching performativity in gynoid robots and presenting her findings in the solo show “Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”. Knox is an affiliate of the Creative Robotics Lab at Australia’s National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), and co-directs production house Lull Studios.

Dr Knox’s artworks are presented in premiere venues internationally. Most recently her works involving robots have featured in the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) Hong Kong, Wuhan Art Village and K11 Art Mall China, Athens Digital Arts Festival, Cairo Video Festival, Pisa Robot Film Festival, and Blue Magpie Film Series Taiwan. In 2017–18, Knox will complete commissions including: a work on robots and AI for Goethe-Institut Seoul and Beijing; an interactive multi-sensory environment for The Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney; public art experiments with humanoids in Japan’s Miraikan; and robot wearables for Robot Love, The Netherlands.


Professor Takashi Ikegami received his doctorate in physics from the University of Tokyo. His work focuses on building and studying artificial life systems by combining computer simulations, chemical experiments and robotics. Professor Ikegami’s research has been published in Life Emerges in Motion (Seido Book Publishers, 2007), The Sandwich Theory of Life (Kodansha, 2012) and the e-book MTMDF (2014).

Professor Ikegami is a frequent attendee of the International Conference on Artificial Life, and delivered a keynote address at the 20th Anniversary of Artificial Life conference in Winchester, UK. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Artificial LifeAdaptive Behaviors, BioSystems and Interaction Studies. He is currently professor and principal investigator at Takashi Ikegami Laboratories.


Tomomi Ota majored in musicology and music education as an undergraduate before completing a Masters of Research in Media Design at the elite Keio University. Her Masters thesis focused on the use of an algorithm to randomly generate music to enhance people-to-people communication. While working full-time, she purchased one of 200 developer-model Pepper robots in November 2014, and documents her experiences cohabitating with Pepper on her website

In April 2016, Ota founded the mirai capsule project, a joint human-robot musical unit with the aim of fostering positive human-robot interactions. She has spoken at a number of events both within and outside of Japan including annual science-fiction convention Nihon SF Taikai, TEDxTokyoSalon and Presenting Japan in London. Ota also co-hosts in robot review videos for online magazine robot start inc.


Former Japan Foundation Fellow Dr Yuji Sone (Macquarie University) is a performance researcher. Initially trained with the experimental theatre company Banyu-Inryoku in Japan, he teaches theatre and performance studies courses with an emphasis on praxis in relation to cultural studies and media studies. Yuji produced numerous media-based performance works throughout the 1990s, and performed in international and domestic conferences and festivals including the Adelaide Festival Artists Week, 25 Years of Performance Art in Australia, the Sydney Asian Theatre Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival, San Francisco Sound Culture, the Toronto Festival of Performance Art, and Rootless UK. His research has focused on the cross-disciplinary conditions of technologised performance.

Dr Sone recently published his book Japanese Robot Culture: Performance, Imagination, and Modernity (2017), in which he examines representations of social robots in public, domestic, and artistic contexts in Japan.


Robot sociologist Naho Kitano acquired her Masters at Waseda University. She wrote extensively on robot ethics before founding robotics firm Hibot Corp in 2004. Serving as Representative Director from 2009-2014, Kitano succeeded in growing HiBot Corp into one of Japan’s most well-known robotics startups.

Since stepping down from her role at HiBot Corp, Kitano has embarked on two new roles: one as a researcher for a government technology venture in robot ethics and business development at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the other as executive officer for new venture ASUKOE Partners, Inc. advising on AI and public service business development.

Editor’s Notes
  • Images on this webpage can be used for editorial purposes.
  • For high-resolution images, please contact us.


The Japan Foundation Gallery
Level 4, Central Park
28 Broadway, Chippendale 2008
(Access via lifts)


All events are free. Bookings essential via

Doors open 30 mins before the events start.

General Enquiries

(02) 8239 0055

Media Enquiries

Leah Sourris
(02) 8239 0055

Jessica Chow
(02) 8239 0055

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