Robot Tenderness Is Coming Soon to a Device Near You!
Soon we'll be programming emotions like tenderness into machines. What will that be like?
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As our robots and devices evolve and become more social and more affective we will find ourselves co-opted by our own highly evolved and very natural responses to social cues. We've seen a lot of hypothetical examples of this in the science fiction genre (Hal, Data, Mycroft, Star Wars, ... This is a very long list). In recent history some physical prototypes have been created in the lab to examine these human-machine interactions. Kismet is one such research project that was guided by Cynthia Breazeal. And she has subsequently used what she learned in her latest commercial venture jibo where the emphasis is clearly to take advantage of a human's inate social skills.
If we imagine the line going through our helpful devices starting at "cruise control" in your car, going through your roomba (which politely and socially avoids vacuuming your feet), continuing through and actively helpful and friendly servant like jibo, then where does this lead? What if the next generation of devices pushed even more of our "social buttons"? A few years ago Kate Darling did some experiments on this with a toy robot called Pleo, and even she was surprised by the results.
But seems like very soon we will be interacting with Pepper. The video below is clearly a scripted and intentional assault on your vulnerable social auto responses, but if these behaviors are woven into its other functional and practical services that I believe we will have entered uncharted territories for human computer interaction. I challenge you to watch the video below. You may want to enter this strange mindset and suspend your disbelief or you may dislike what's happening and find it unsettling, but in either case there is no denying that this device is socially interacting with you.
It is certain that some of you out there will be developing on platforms like this. Will it feel like programming a database? Or a user interface? Or will it be more like helping a fellow employee with a new skill? I believe you will find out sooner rather than later.
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