Robot’s Actions And Our Reactions

If you walk into a dog owner’s home that dog is probably going to make a beeline to see if you are a threat. If you walk into a cat owner’s home, you may see the cat wandering around, if it even chooses to grace you with its presence. For some people, a dog’s direct approach can be nerve-wracking, or even scary depending on their history and relative size of the dog. Still, these domestic animals are easy to empathize with especially if you or your family have a pet. They have faces which can convey curiosity or smug indifference but what if you were asked to judge the intent of something with no analogs to our own physical features like a face or limbs? That is what researchers at the IDC Herzliya in Israel and Cornell University in the US asked when they made the Greeting Machine to move a moon-like sphere around a planet-like sphere.

Participants were asked to gauge their feelings about the robot after watching the robot move in different patterns. It turns out that something as simple as a sphere tracing across the surface of another sphere can stir consistent and predictable emotions in people even though the shapes do not resemble a human, domestic pet, or anything but a snowman’s abdomen. This makes us think about how our own robots must be perceived by people who are not mired in circuits all day. Certainly, a robot jellyfish lazing about in the Atlantic must feel less threatening than a laser pointer with a taste for human eyeballs.


Via IEEE Spectrum.

9 thoughts on “Robot’s Actions And Our Reactions

    1. it’s nicely made, has some interesting thoughts behind it. But in the end it’s just a ball on a ball moving oddly around.

      The main problem (in my mind) is that if you see this for the first time and have no clue about what it is suppost to be, it’s just looks like a ball stuck to another ball. And in no way you would even think it had anything to do with gestures of any kind.
      But if you were told it represents gestures of some kind and then were asked what those gestures could mean, sure.. I’m not surprised that the outcome of the research is in favor of the design. Hmm…

      I may be an idiot for saying this… but it just needs a face. Everyone knows faces and most of us know how to interpret facial expressions (we are trained to do this since we are born). The small-ball-on-a-bigger-ball concept.
      I’m sure that a just single ball with a neutral face painted on it can achieve the same goals of this project. When that ball was made to be able to pan/tilt the ball. It can make it looks like meaning a lot of things. If we see a face, we unintentionally look for an expression or movement. (think of a trackball where the X/Y sensors are replaced by motors).

      Don’t underestimate faces. When looking at a simple (American) wall socket many people tend to see a sad face. Although technically speaking it means nothing more than that the socket was placed upside down, but that’s a different topic.

  1. I am still pissed at SyFy for murdering Caprica. They made it like a puzzle chase to see all the episodes of season 1 and then acted all butthurt and surprised at the low ratings that resulted, so they “had” to cancel it.

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