So the robot-themed posts continue! I promise you all that this blog isn’t just going to be about robots and artificial intelligence (although that is a very important topic of discussion), it’s just that I tend to immerse myself in particular topics of interest when they arise. For the past week, it’s been the possibility of sentient robots. Which caused me to come across a great blog entitled Hizook which looks at developments in the world of robotics and I highly recommend it to everybody.
Today then, we’ve got this cute face to mull over thanks to a post over on Hizook. Simon Robot is the newly unveiled creation of Georgia Tech’s Socially Intelligent Machines Lab, a lab which has recently seen one of its members – Dr. Andrea Thomaz – be honoured with the prestigious ‘MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35’ award. Simon Robot is intended to be a robot focused on social learning and development through demonstration, but what I want to focus on here is the interesting development of human empathy relationships with robots. In particular, the fact that Simon Robot has been created to seemingly specifically cause us to want to pinch its cheeks and fawn all over how cute it looks.
Watching the video below, you would normally be kind of underwhelmed by what really is quite an impressive feat in robotics – simply because the action is slow and measured. However, put a cute ‘robot pet’ face on it and all of a sudden it has the ability to grab our attention and make us go ‘awwwww’.
The point being, that it will be interesting to see which kind of aesthetic we choose for different kinds of robots. Simon Robot is designed specifically with robot-human interaction in mind, so it is certainly not a coincidence that it has a face designed to elicit an emotional nurturing response from us.
Honestly, I am curious to see if such a look takes hold throughout such emerging industries. I can’t imagine, for example, more utilitarian robots designed to work hard, menial tasks being designed to look adorable whilst doing the difficult and (to us) unpleasant tasks that we will assign them. But then, I can imagine seeing these kind of robots in very public areas – shopping malls, libraries, bars and other such public and social environments.
What do you think about the aesthetics of artificial intelligence? Should we be designing such things to elicit emotional responses from us? Or should we try and distance ourselves from such emerging technologies in order to steer clear of resulting attachment issues and other problems?
It will be very interesting to see, personally I think that many robots will take an aesthetic that keeps them well clear of anthropomorphic forms – except for those that are designed for human-robot interaction, in which case there will be a need for us to relate strongly to them in order not to feel alienated or strange in our interactions. Crossing this barrier will be made so much easier for many people if the face of the robot they are talking to has big eyes and cute ears…it’s also undeniable that it makes a very effective PR tactic through which to get the media interested!