"The Market" is best at driving these things. Factory automation robots look like giant arms because that was the fastest/best design at the time. I, like many engineers, feel that a robot should be best designed for what it does, not necessarily how it looks. But once you have a faceless robot serving beer in a bar and people start wigging out about how ugly it is, you will see how important that kind of design work becomes. The bar down the street features foxy robot waitresses and they are doubling our revenue, etc etc.
Google "uncanny" and check the "uncanny curve" results that pop up. The uncanny curve was created in 1970. I can tell you what Japanese robot designers were probably trying to do in 1970, and it probably wasn't making a robot that vacuums rugs. This probably explains the revulsion factor. I've seen pictures of Japanese sexbots and they are truly revolting looking. There's your Market, again.
With new designers unfettered by the cracking whip of upper management, we'll see better and better designs. And whether the 2025 uBot looks more like Heather Knight or more like her Monrobot will probably be determined by... anyone? anyone?
Wow. Could have not said it beter myself. well done.
I think we have to be more concerned with function and not the looks.
On the other side if the function is lowe level supervision of children, ie: to be present on the floor and monitor movement of kids within a restricted space and making sure that they are not to close to the exit door or other restricted area, I guess the robot should not be too scary.
For pure industrial applications I care for the function.
Charles Murray - Judgung from the photo accompanying the article, the 2000 engineers were trasnfixed by Heather Knight, not her robot.
If robots looked like humans, humans would regularly punch them when they did something wrong. Context is important too. Humans would look out of place in some of the environments robots work in (can you imagine a humanoid pool cleaning robot, for example?)
I want my robot to be functional and have everything that I need. Specifically, it needs eyes in the back of its head, 4 arms, stable platform that has soft flexible tracks that can negotiate hardwood floors, carpeted stairs, mow my grass, get my mail, vacuum, do dishes, clean the cat litter, and charge itself. It also needs to be water proof. I dont care if it is male, female, both or neither. It also needs capability of a simple personal assistant that knows the weather, todays meetings, time of todays Cub game, and where my car keys are!!!
If I can borrow from Isaac Asimov, a humanoid robot is basically the best idea because we will feel less threatened. The reason for this, is that they can sit behind the wheel of our car or atop our tractor and perform the same function as a human. Because we choose to let them perform this task and we can take over at any time, we are not threatened by them.
We like to comunicate with faces. Humanlike interaction works better with a face and a name to comunicate to. A screen with a face is probably suficient. Remote access should pop up a face for ID etc. Above all, make it fun/real.
This is really a nice thought provoking article. I think the appearance of the robot should be related to the function that it serves. If the robot is meant for the care of elderly people then it must have a human form rather than the machine form. But it will be better to have a machine form for a robot that does spot welding in the car assembly line. My points may be too primitive but I feel that this way "Frankenstein" problem in appearance can be tackled to some extent. But in any case this is a real tough problem for the engineers...!
If you ask a bunch of engineers, as we are doing here, the the answer will almost always be "form follows function." Or, in some cases, "We don't need no stinking form." But for those who were in the room when Heather Knight unveiled her robot, named Data, the answer might be different. When Data talked, the room of 2,000 engineers was transfixed. Clearly, there was a different level of acceptance for Data than if it had looked like a McDonald's fryer robot. So my answer is, robots might benefit from a more human appearance in certain situations, even when function doesn't obviously dictate it.
That's a great point, Bill. Although I "knew" it, I realize now that I've never really thought about that explicitly. But it's correct and I'd add to it that I've always thought everyone has a facial recognition program embedded in their brain as an instinctual function. I.e., it's like real-time software in that whenever one sees a new face (human or animal), this program performs the "friend or foe" analysis. That's what early man had to figure out for survival. I guess by extension we recognize robots as robots by perceiving the lack of movement/life in the faces of those humanoid machines. Conceivably, manufacturers could play with like/dislike by altering the characteristics (faces) of those robots.
The Japanese affinity for making robots look human is as humorous as those who feel Sheedzu's (spelling), a dog bred in Tibet quite capable of handling cold, need to be clothed. Isn't it funny that people want to make things that they love like people; I think it is a reflection upon the lack of such love between people. However, it does put a smile on my face to see such silly things, even if they're not intended to be silly.
I was also pleasantly surprised the other day, being an avid Battlestar Galactica fan (2000's, not 1970's), while listening to my favorite radio station, Science360, on inTune radio app. Apparently the AI wizards of IBM have discovered to their chagrin that when they try to make AI think like us with networking "brain" like us they discover they can no longer program their machine; it has to learn its task, just like any other inferior non-silicon based lifeform. LOL. Of course a DNA based computer like those in BG could be a game changer.
On a final light note. A dog is a dog, not a human. A robot is a robot, not a human. Can't we embrace the fact that they are different from us, instead of trying to make them be like us. :)
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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