How Long Until a Robot Cries? – Nautilus

When Angelica Lim bakes macaroons, she has her own kitchen helper, Naoki. Her assistant is only good at the repetitive tasks, like sifting flour, but he makes the job more fun. Naoki is very cute, just under two feet tall. He’s white, mostly, with blue highlights, and has speakers where his ears should be. The little round circle of a mouth that gives him a surprised expression is actually a camera, and his eyes are infrared receivers and transmitters.

“I just love robots,” said Lim in 2013, at the time a Ph.D. student in the Department of Intelligent Science and Technology at Kyoto University in Japan. She uses the robot from Aldebaran Robotics in Paris to explore how robots might express emotions and interact with people. When Lim plays the flute, Naoki (the Japanese characters of his name translate roughly to “more than a machine”) accompanies her on the theremin or the egg shaker. She believes it won’t be too many years before robotic companions share our homes and our lives.

Of course Naoki doesn’t get the jokes, or enjoy the music, or feel his mouth watering over the cookies. Though we might refer to a person-shaped robot as “him,” we know it’s just a collection of metal parts and circuit boards. When we yell at Siri or swear at our desktop, we don’t really believe they’re being deliberately obtuse. And they’re certainly not going to react to our frustration; machines don’t understand what we feel.ArtworkAt least that’s what we’d like to believe. Having feelings, we usually assume, and the ability to read emotions in others, are human traits. We don’t expect machines to know what we’re thinking or react to our moods. And we feel superior to them because we emote and they don’t. No matter how quick and logical they are, sensitive humans win and prevail over machines[…]

Source: How Long Until a Robot Cries?

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