Robots and Food, the Perfect Pair? - Changing the Robot Image
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Dr. Heather Knight is a roboticist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she recently told the New York Times that her industry is struggling to change the bad perception most have of robots.
"The Japanese have always been more comfortable with it, but in the West, there's this whole Frankenstein thing that if we try to make something in the image of man, to make a new creature, we're stealing the role of God and it's going to turn out wrong because that's not our role," Knight said. "So how do you change this perception that robots are going to be way too intelligent and destroy us? One of the fastest ways to people's hearts is food, right? Any girlfriend or wife would say that."
Food is just one factor; the other approach robot makers are taking is trying to make their creations have more humanizing behavior. This was definitely the case with Snackbot's creators.
Just to make the robot more personable and realistic, one of the graduate students in Rybski's class spent two whole days hanging out at a campus hot dog vendor taking detailed notes on how the vendor interacted with the customers. Much of what she encountered ended up as the robot's dialog.
Those who dislike the idea of robots making their pancakes, garnishing their sushi, or offering snacks can take solace in the fact that instilling a genuine personality in a machine is impossible, as is teaching a robot what comes as second nature to human beings. Chances are, no matter how technologically advanced society becomes, these two things will continue to elude scientists -- and thankfully robots as well.
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