Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

The anthropomorphization/biomimicing of robots....

This is a follow up to Natasha's post...

Indeed, there may be a goal out there of creating the perfect humanoid but would that make it an interesting robot? In the educational robotics arena, the goal is to engage students (who are all people, so far I do not know of any robots that have enrolled for classes, or have they? :-) the engagement comes from being interesting, perhaps entertaining, or both.

R2D2 and C3P0 are interesting not because of their morphology, but because of the personalities attributed to them in their roles.

A more interesting case is that of the SONY Aibo. While morphologically similar to a dog, it really is nothing like a dog, though the last incarnations resembled Schultz's Snoopy and that made it very cute and engaging. But then Snoopy is a cartoonish representation of fact cartoonish characterizations seem to be more interesting..think of a tiger and then think of Watterson's Hobbes, etc. Again, personality goes a long way :-)

In a strange way, it all makes sense...there are already 5 billion of us on this planet, so if an artificial one comes along that looks just like us...we're most likely not going to be interested in it (except may be the scientists who created it)...

A company called UGOBE is supposed to start selling its very biomimic, life like Pleo soon. We'll see if it is accepted because it is so life like, or perhaps because kids would like to have baby dinosaurs as pets...or pretty soon we will see functionality in it that goes beyond that of the dinosaur it mimics?

I guess what I'm saying is...the psychology of our perceptions has a much bigger impact on our engagement than the realistic-ness of artifacts. For the same reason, if an educational robot looked more like a "toy" it may not be that interesting either...

Human-Like Robots, another Perspective

Thu, 2007-06-21 09:16

To conclude scientifically what people think about human-like robots, we'd have to get random sample of humans, show them a group of robots (including ones that are very 'robotic'-- sporting no facial features -- ones that mimic humans, ones like Aibo, like cartoon-type creatures, or fluffy animal-like ones) and see which they prefer. But to continue a little more with some speculation...

You make a good point about people enjoying robots like Aibo, R2D2, and C3P0, even though they're not too similar to real living beings. The idea that cartoon animals are more inviting than real ones, too, is well taken. I agree that displaying personality, as these robots do, makes them more 'loveable'. That still fits well with the idea that life-like (though not necessarily human) robots engage people more than, say, a pile of machinery on wheels.

But I'd say people are more into themselves than you say. People enjoy real, life-like portrayals of random strangers -- if you give them a good photographer's photograph that captures perfect strangers wrapped up in some human emotion, people will enjoy that. One time in a museum, I saw this janitor, leaning against the wall, wiping his forehead with a handrag as he rested from mopping. I was startled to realize, on closer inspection, that he wasn't real, but a life-size wax sculpture of a janitor; I still remember him, as I think many people who saw him do. If people saw a real, human-like robot, whether the robot was showing normal human emotion (laughing, or bunching up his forehead in disapproval) or doing superhuman tasks ("What's 15 * 82 * 37 * 42?" "Oh, that is 1,911,420."), I tend to think people would be rather intrigued.

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