Could You Become Best Friends With A Robot?
Best Robot – Jai Jai
Robotics is a field that is developing at an alarming rate. This doesn’t seem that long ago that we had the first humanoid robots making headlines. Now there are numerous models and prototypes in development. Larger companies are in competition to create robots that are more realistic and more functional than ever. That isn’t just for bragging rights. There is a desire to create human-like robots so lifelike that we can form a bond with them and accept them.
That raises some important questions about the future of robotics and the place of these creations in society. We are happy to have robots performing tasks to make life easier. This is clear in our reliance on assistive technology like Siri and Cortana.
The idea of trusting these robots and forming a relationship with them is different. Could we see robots as something, or someone, to share are feelings with? Could robots be intelligent and adaptive enough to understand these emotions and respond appropriately?
Current Models Like Jai Jai, Sophia, And Geminoid Suggests That Relationships Aren’t That Far Away
The focus right now is on creating human-like robots that can emote, respond and look like one. A simple question and response system aren’t enough anymore. These creations need to be able to understand the emotion behind a statement and show that understanding convincingly. This means a diverse range of facial expressions behind a realistic silicone mask.
Sophia is a great example of this with her attractive features and 62 facial expressions. Hanson Robotics, her creators, are keen to see robots as friends and are further developing Sophia to meet this aim.
Jai Jai is perhaps the most lifelike of all the models, but her reactions are still limited. Geminoid, from Hiroshi Ishiguro, is slightly different in that he is working to study humans and their interactions with robots. His findings will help to determine our true feelings towards humanoid robots in the real world.
How Could We Use It In Society?
If we learn to “trust” robots and make an “emotional connection” how will this work in real life. The two concepts in Japan are of interest on a wider scale. The first is the use of robots as caregivers for the elderly and dementia patients. They expect patients to respond well to these figures and there is a strong need for extra help in this industry. The another benefit of robots in healthcare is that they will never go sick or pass the illness to their patients.
A dementia patient that struggles with human relationships may appreciate the care and companionship of the robot. However, they need to have the skills to respond to personal situations and provide a careful response to questions. A robot that can smile kindly and give a predetermined emotive response isn’t enough.
The second idea is to use these robots as therapists for patients that struggle to talk to a real human. This is where that barrier between a real human and humanoid robots could be of use. If these robots can listen, respond and become trustworthy with difficult information, they can be of use. One area that developers are now interested in is therapy with autistic children. These children work on a different level emotionally and could benefit from an alternative approach.
What Are The Barriers Stopping Us From Loving And Trusting These Robots?
There are clearly instances where these robots could be of great use. The problem is that they need the right human audience to see through their non-human elements. That is why autism is such a great area to focus on. Many of us will struggle to take that final leap with a human-like robotic assistant or therapist. We simply won’t be able to trust them fully.
The instinct is to make these robots look more and more realistic, with the expressions and skin, so we feel comfortable. The problem here is that this doesn’t always work. It is what those in the industry call the “uncanny valley” effect. Some of us view these new robots as creepy, compared to more traditional models
There is no guarantee that people will open up just because it has a humanoid face. There is some portion of the brain that insists that something isn’t quite right. That instinct ‘s hard to ignore. Some suggest that we may as well focus on developing emotive qualities in an abstract form
It ‘S Hard To Consider Humanoid Robots In These Therapeutic Capacities, No Matter How Life-Like And Expressive They Are
There is still that barrier that means that we would rather see human faces and hear human voices in key roles. However, there are some situations where these robots seem to be doing a decent job. Ishiguro has tested human reactions to his human-like robots to get an idea of acceptance levels.
He claims that approximately 80% of those that greeted his robots in their new role needed a double take. They would walk up to them assuming they were real people and acted surprised by the response. This is a great indicator that these robots are becoming more realistic and can blend into society. However, what happens when the illusion brakes down? Is the trust broken too?
At the moment the best life-like robots are best kept in positions where they can be of assistance and provide information. Something where they don’t need as strong a customer relationship or level of trust. Right now, this means roles like hotel receptionists, concierge service, tour guides and language assistants.
Essentially, this would be a gateway between the assistive technology in our phones and a real robot. We trust Siri to give us directions and help with our schedule, so Siri in robot form makes logical sense. The problem is that it is a much bigger leap to a humanoid robot therapist or nurse.
With time, development and further research, we could find that these human-like robots can break that final barrier. At some point, we will be capable of trusting these beings enough to form some relationship. A patient- therapist relationship is a great goal to aim for; we just aren’t there quite yet.