3 Replies Latest reply: Apr 18, 2012 6:22 PM by robotonics RSS

How Human Should a Robot Be?

squadMCU

As engineers move closer to developing robots that perform human tasks, many are asking: How human do I want this robot to be?
During the opening keynote of the recent Freescale Technology Forum (FTF), Freescale's medical segment marketing manager, David Niewolny, demonstrated an on-stage application of a communications robot. The robot enabled a patient in bed to talk to his doctor via an onboard video screen.
The robot, designed and built by VGo Communications Inc., doesn't look human. Rather, it's a two-way audio-video communications platform on wheels. No legs, no arms, no head.

As engineers move closer to developing robots that perform human tasks, many are asking: How human do I want this robot to be?


During the opening keynote of the recent Freescale Technology Forum (FTF), Freescale's medical segment marketing manager, David Niewolny, demonstrated an on-stage application of a communications robot. The robot enabled a patient in bed to talk to his doctor via an onboard video screen.


The robot, designed and built by VGo Communications Inc., doesn't look human. Rather, it's a two-way audio-video communications platform on wheels. No legs, no arms, no head.


Tim Root, the chief technology officer and co-founder of VGo, said VGo's non-human form was intentional. "We wanted it not to feel intimidating. Our approach is that form follows function. We spent a lot of time making it look appealing, but we didn't want it to be a humanoid."


Indeed, VGo's design places function first. The robot, which serves as an avatar of sorts, enables a remote driver to communicate with others over an audio-video connection. The driver can use his or her laptop computer to remotely steer the robot, operate the onboard camera, or just talk to people over an Internet-based link. It employs four microphones for better audio, and a small display to enable others to see the driver's face. But there's not even a hint of humanness.


 

 

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  • 1. Re: How Human Should a Robot Be?
    bee

    Hi, your question goes deep into the roots of anthropomorphic design - which is a basic design strategy for use of similarity or familiarity to human features in a systems perception and asthetics or interaction. One very small example of this could be how algorithms have evolved to allow computers reading out text aloud to sound more 'humanist' over the years - to the voice controls that now exist for Sat Navs! In medical robotics and specifically the case you describe, it is important the patient trusts the surgeon and doctor and hence anything in that environment is created with a perception that does not glorify the intelligence of the system. Da Vinci system for telesurgery infact has proved several times that it corrects and make surgical procedures 'safer' by removing jitter, or correcting pressure applied on organs during procedures by surgeons themselves. Without the intervention, the corrective procedure by the surgeon would be endangering the patient's life.

     

    for other applications, for example having robotic assistance for motion control and intelligent prosthetics for example, a robotic system must not be fully intelligent and autonomous but extremely humanish. This is an element where the humanish perception and interaction takes precendence over the autonomy of the system.

     

    The Spirit rover was designed to have the same height and vision system that simulated a 5-7year child moving on the Martian surface - a feature specifically added as it meant we could have a human perceptive of the planet's exploration and features. Here the human-ness served a very different manifestation.

     

    A robot should be as human as its purpose requires. I feel wherever an educative and comforting purpose is to be ultimately served by the Robot, it adds comfort and trust within the human interaction to have the Robotic system be more humanist. Because of the fundamental challenges since the time robotics was first discussed and developed has been to perfectly mimic humanistic behaviour and features, there will always be enough research and knowledge to make robots as human as possible!

  • 2. Re: How Human Should a Robot Be?
    dcallaghan@dut

    Hi. This is quite a tricky topic but robots are machines that may or may not mimic humans in some way. As you said, with things like Sat Nav, a more human sounding voice is surely preferable. Machines that must interact with people and are performing tasks that probably would previously have been performed, in some way, by a person (such as a navigator passenger with a map) should perhaps mimic a human to make the interaction feel more natural to us.

     

    Robots have artificial intelligence.It appears to be intelligent but in actual fact is just following a programmed sequence of actions. Perhaps autonomy (particularly self learning autonomy) taken to the extreme, could produce forms of artificial intelligence that could conceiveably become comparable to human intelligence. However, things that appear the same are not neccessarily so. A talking bird (such as a parrot) can appear to be communicating like a human but is just mimicing human communication.

     

    If we create robots that become so intelligent that humans become redundant then maybe humans aren't so intelligent after all. Anxiety is caused by people speculating about robot artificial intelligence surpassing human intelligence. Robots already perform many tasks far better than humans but that is what a machine really is. We create machines to perform tasks much better than we can with our natural faculties. The debate really goes to the heart of the definition of intelligence.

  • 3. Re: How Human Should a Robot Be?
    robotonics

    Big question...some cultures seem to embrace human looking robots, whilst others fear or mistrust them. I suppose that this a human response to an uncertain outcome.

     

    My opinion is that a Robot could obviously never be Human. And that perhaps a Human, is already the most advanced form of Robot!