Designers of robot pets are fighting a never-ending battle with consumers to provide entertaining and realistic gadgets that respond to human interaction in ever more nuanced ways, mimicking the behavior of real pet animals or even people. Researchers in Taiwan are now looking at a new design paradigm that could see the development of a robot vision module that might one-day recognize human facial expressions and respond appropriately.
Part of the problem is that robot design takes a long time, while the consumer life cycle of any given product is very short. Moreover, fixed prototypes and repetitive behavior in domestic robots for entertainment is no longer of interest to sophisticated users. Today, they expect their robot pets to be almost as good as the "robots" they see in 3D movies and games.
The researchers, Wei-Po Lee, Tsung-Hsien Yang and Bingchiang Jeng of National Sun Yat-sen University, have now turned to neural networks to help them break the cycle of repetitive behavior in robot toys and to endow them with almost emotional responses to interactions.
On the bright side, a market for emotional robots will help drive the development of smarter machines so that machine intelligence can become smart enough to some day start a world war between humans and terminators. That war will relieve the ennui of those who are not killed before they get a chance to become underground heroic guerrilla fighters. Most people who need an emotional robot probably stand a chance of feeling more fulfilled by their role in a human-terminator war.
What would be more interesting than emotional robots: dogs genetically engineered for higher intelligence.
What would be far more useful that emotional robots: artificial intelligence that could accelerate the development of rejuvenation therapies.