“The Man Who Made a Copy of Himself” by Erico Guizzo, in IEEE Spectrum, April 2010.
Subtly but surely, robots are making their way into our everyday lives. By some estimates, 8.5 million service robots are already in use worldwide, doing a wide range of tasks such as performing surgery, milking cows, and handling meat. They don’t resemble the friendly characters promised by science fiction, such as C-3PO from Star Wars and Rosie the Robot Maid from The Jetsons. But in a not-too-distant future, that may change. Robots will serve up our daily java at Starbucks and assist people with physical therapy. “But,” writes Erico Guizzo, associate editor of IEEE Spectrum, “to be accepted in these roles, robots may have to behave less like machines and more like us.”
Osaka University engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro has been a pioneer in the humanization of robots. Early in his career, he built one robot that “looked like a trash can with arms” and another that “resembled an overgrown insect.” People did not react well to these creations, Guizzo reports; they couldn’t relate to them.
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