How Can We Learn to Feel Like a Robot?
Tom Spendlove posted on March 18, 2018 |
Leila Takayama from UC Santa Cruz discusses how we can build empathy for robots.

Leila Takayama thinks that making a good first impression is important. In her TED Talk What's it like to be a robot she talks about her first impression of a robot in the Willow Garage in 2008. The robot moved up to Takayama, paused for a few seconds, and then turned its head and rolled away. Her first impression of robotics was that robots aren't totally aware of humans, and they do what they're programmed to do.

The host at Willow Garage explained the robot's programming, that the path was from Point A to Point B, and Takayama was an obstacle in the path to move around. But Leila decided then that robots should be able to think about people as different entities than a chair or table to navigate.

General thinking from the populace and even from engineers is that robots are futuristic science fiction creations, but Takayama says that robots are here today and explains several of the robots we interact with on a semi daily basis. She shows robots in her home that vacuum the floor, cut the grass and cleans the litter box. Further, she says, machines like dishwashers and thermostats meet the basic definition of robots but they serve a purpose in our lives so we accept them as parts of the home.

Takayama and her team at Willow Garage built a mobile robot that started out as "Skype on a stick on wheels" and allowed a person to remotely operate it and interact with others in the workplace, home or at parties. Issues of height, personal space, locus of control, and disruption were discovered from the project. The best story is a group of kids testing the robot at Menlo Park and assigning points for the robot to hit different people - Leila was quick to point out that hitting people with a robot would cause harm to the human beings, but five minutes later the kids were once again detaching themselves from the consequences of their robot's actions.

This is a great presentation of the way that people can interact with robots, and the way people can react to human / robot hybrids. Leila Takayama is a great speaker full of inspiring ideas about how our robotic future might look.

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