We’ve noticed something strange here at Restech – though we don’t claim to be the only ones or the first to notice.
As most of you know we spend most of our time teaching kids in schools all about robots, how to make them, how they work, how they are programmed etc.
And the children know and understand that robots are machines that are given instructions to do stuff - they tell us this themselves.
This is why we find it so difficult to get our heads around something.
Whenever the students start using their robot, it suddenly becomes either a ‘he’ or a ‘she’!!
Not only that, but some of them are cute some are friendly, some have been injured or indeed are trying to injure the not so matey classmate of the robot’s owner.
Some are making friends, some are running away, some are clumsy and some are angry.
It is bizarre. Even though the students are well aware that these robots are simply machines, they still impose human characteristics onto them.
And at the end of a session, some students actually become sad and say goodbye to their robots.
We’re not saying this is a bad thing, and we have never told students not say, feel or behave in certain ways.
For the most part, we believe that it is part of their play and most are messing around and of course it is a good laugh.
And as a teacher, I must confess I have often made similar jokes, when one of the robots runs astray into my leg, I will say something like ‘Aaah, its trying to get me!’
We don’t take it too seriously or look at it as a problem right now, because we all know the robots are robots – after all they look and act like robots.
The reason we are pointing it out is because as we look towards the near future – the next five years or so – we will begin to see a huge rise in the number of robots that look and act like us. Yes, like humans.
Perhaps further down the line it is going to become quite difficult to see the difference physically between a robot and a human.
It is at this point, that us imposing our human characteristics onto them may indeed start to become a problem.
And we know that we are not the first to raise this question: Will we start to become emotionally attached to robots?
The reason its important to us, is we hope that Restech will still be teaching younger and older school kids about robots, and if the kits we are using have developed from Lego Mindstorms to actual cute and friendly little humanoids will this change things???
Your thoughts and comments hugely welcome.