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A future in which it is difficult to tell man and machine apart could soon become reality, scientists say, after recent robotic breakthroughs in Japan. But as the once-fantastical idea of wise-cracking android sidekicks takes form in laboratories – and the gap between humans and robots narrows – society faces ethical and legal complications as yet undreamed of, they warn. South Korea deploys jellyfish-terminating robots, while a robot with artificial intelligence able to analyze market trends has become a company director in Hong Kong.The 1982 Hollywood cult film "Blade Runner," which is set in 2019, features genetically engineered robots called "replicants" which are visually indistinguishable from humans, but physically superior and able to withstand pain.Today robots are still discernably robots, with many designed deliberately to look artificial – Honda's ASIMO was introduced to much fanfare in 2000 as a multifunctional mobile assistant which resembles a shrunken spaceman.A chatty humanoid called Pepper was unveiled recently by Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank, which claims it can understand people's emotions and "70-80 percent of spontaneous conversations".
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