September 20, 2010
Neural Networks For Emotional Robots

I refuse to get emotionally sucked into feeling for a robot pet driven by neural network software.

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.

The idea of emotional robots seems as pathetic to me as the idea of Japanese men taking virtual robots on vacation. If your abode is too small for a dog at least consider a cat. Or a talking parrot like Alex.

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.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 September 20 10:30 PM  Robots Pets


Comments
jaytee said at September 21, 2010 5:27 AM:

The lack of enthusiasm for emotional robots surprises me, given that this is ostensibly a futurist blog.

How do we relate to others, except through emotion? It won't be long before the lines between humans and robots blur.

Tom Mazanec said at September 21, 2010 10:10 AM:

I am a future lover. But the saddest part of the Woody Allen movie"Sleeper" to my was that robot dog...

Tom Mazanec said at September 21, 2010 10:11 AM:

The saddest part of the Woody Allen movie "Sleeper" was the robot dog...

Tom Mazanec said at September 21, 2010 10:13 AM:

The first time I commented it said it rejected my Captcha!

Hugh Jass said at September 21, 2010 2:44 PM:

"What would be more interesting than emotional robots: dogs genetically engineered for higher intelligence."

More interesting still would be dogs genetically engineered for reduced fecal elimination volume.

Randall Parker said at September 21, 2010 8:54 PM:

jaytee,

Why create robots just to relate to them? We have humans and animals to relate to. Robots can do lots of things for us without showing signs of emotions.

Lono said at September 22, 2010 8:12 AM:

Randall,

To some extent I disagree.

I agree that it is less productive to create robots that are surrogates for non-robot social interaction in general - with maybe a few exceptions for the sick/elderly in extreme cases.

However - I do like the idea of robots/software that can cater a little bit to one's mood - and act as appropriately as logisitcal managers.

I, myself, would love a program on my computer that was made in this way - and which could be verbally told to do a set of tasks while I am away at work. A virtual butler as it were who could use a variety of little pre-programed "tricks" to humor me from time to time and put me in a better mood when I interacted with it.

To me that doesn't replace Human interaction since the average person can hardly afford a daily servant these days.

jaytee said at September 22, 2010 1:42 PM:

Why create robots just to relate to them? We have humans and animals to relate to. Robots can do lots of things for us without showing signs of emotions.

Well, the simple answer is because we want to surround ourselves with things that make us happy. That's just good design.

The farther-flung answer is that as we approach meta-human (and robots approach meta-robot), who's to say we won't have human friends, animal friends and robot friends? Maybe it doesn't seem practical, but why be hostile to the idea? Right now it seems silly—there's no way the virtual girlfriends you mentioned could pass a Turing test, but we're getting closer all the time.

jaytee said at September 22, 2010 1:45 PM:

(Not to mention that some apartments don't allow any pets: dogs, cats, parrots... For these people, a pet disguised as an appliance would be great. I think someone is forgetting that not everyone has it as good as they do.)

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