Robots that Make us More Human

I think we’re all starting to feel a bit blase about technology that can  perform a human’s job, but the idea of technology that helps humans become better humans? Now that’s an interesting example of evology. Maja Mataric,  mother and computer scientist, has created a humanoid known as the Camera Bandit, which is intended to provide a “comfy” way for autistic children to gain social skills.

The ‘bot is predictable, responds with easy-to-read facial expressions and basically obeys a set of laws. It can play simple games and children who have interacted with it tend to actually be more sociable with other humans after their encounter with the Camera Bandit. It helps them to better understand social norms and play along with them.

It got me thinking, what if we all had a robot to help socialize us in the ways of human interaction? The MIT Media Lab is working on just that in their Personal Robots Group. Their robot Nexi is designed to mimic human communication patterns to learn more about how to interact with humans, but researchers are also using Nexi to learn more about how humans develop trust and engage with each other.

We could all use a little (or a lot of) help in learning how to interact with others, couldn’t we? Gone could be the days of the accidental miscommunication. And maybe the age-old ‘no’ means ‘yes’ conundrum would disappear. Predictability and consistency – what else do you think we’d learn from interacting within simple, robotic parameters of communication?



Filed under Evology, human evolution, technology

3 responses to “Robots that Make us More Human

  1. Pingback: Robots that Make us More Human (via EvologyNow) « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  2. Those robots are really scary looking! It’s only a matter of time now before we all have a C3PO in our living rooms. But I don’t really like the idea that children are learning communication skills from a robot that is also trying to learn, and mimic that child. They say that as an adult you shouldn’t use baby talk when conversing with a child because it won’t progress their learning. I wonder if robots will cause that kind of a regression?

    • That’s an interesting concern. I wonder how skilled a robot would really be at teaching things like compassion and communicating something in a delicate way. There are no hard and fast rules for communicating well, so I imagine it would be hard to program that sort of thing.

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