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Robotics Science

Robot Becomes One of the Kids 186

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have found that toddlers treat a small robot as a peer rather than a toy. A team from the University of California, San Diego, placed Sony's QRIO in a classroom of kids aged 18 months to 2 years and watched them interact. Over time the children grew to treat the robot as one of them — playing games with the robot, hugging it, and covering it up with a blanket when its batteries ran down."
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Robot Becomes One of the Kids

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  • by moogied ( 1175879 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21258757)
    or any pet for that matter.

    For example.. take this sentence:

    games with the robot, hugging it, and covering it up with a blanket
    and replace robot with dog.

    Would that be news worthy? No. Why? Because its in the nature of most children to play games and take cares of others(because that is what people do to them.) This does not mean they see it as a peer. They see it as a pet.

  • yeah.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by resfilter ( 960880 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:34PM (#21258767)
    most young children also treat inanimate dolls or stuffed animals as peers

    why is this so groundbreaking?
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:37PM (#21258791) Homepage
    ...Androids will not need to mimic human appearance, skin resilience and temperature, etc. with high fidelity.

    Human beings are sufficiently capable of anthropomorphizing... or empathizing... to treat even obviously non-humanoid things as human. (As witness the bonding between humans and pets).

    Robots only need to be reasonably human-like in appearance and behavior, and humans will meet them more than halfway.

    And, of course, and unfortunately, human beings are also capable of treating actual human beings as not human.

  • by mdobossy ( 674488 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:38PM (#21258803)

    and replace robot with dog.
    What I found most interesting, however, is the difference between how the children interacted with 1) a more "robotic" control robot, 2) the "more human" robot when it ceases to act "more human". Sure a kid will nurture/care for a pet, but it is very different than how they treat a stuffed animal/toy.
  • by hellergood ( 968199 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:43PM (#21258875)
    Agreed! [google.com] :)
  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:44PM (#21258881) Homepage
    To an 18 month old child, I doubt there much difference between the way they treat a pet and the way they treat a peer. For that matter, between nearly any object and a peer. Children will anthropomorphize anything. I've seen kids try to share their PB & J sandwich with a VCR. Is the VCR a peer? I guess in some abstract, childish way, it is. The real test is when they start competing with a parent for the affections of the robot. I still think my Mom likes her Roomba more than me....
  • Not only that... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shauni ( 1164077 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @04:54PM (#21259029)
    People are probably more likely to "socialize" with a robot if they can put it in its own separate category easily. Interacting with a non-human intelligence yet human container is bound to be disturbing (it's one of the sources of the uncanny valley)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:18PM (#21259377)
    Actually the '[PB&J, Vegemite] sandwich into the VCR' is a toddler skill known as 'posting'. most toddlers will move through this stage and will happily sit still for hours (well, minutes) shoving:

    • Sandwiches into VCRs
    • Leaves into a drain grate
    • Credit cards down central-heating grates
    • Letters through a door (assuming you live in a country with mail-slots in your door)

    From personal experience, if your child is trying to post into the VCR, make sure your wallet is out of reach - otherwise you'll never find all those cards.


  • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:32PM (#21259581) Homepage Journal
    Or he'll grow up and at some point develop some all on his own. I don't think we learn all our prejudices as children. I don't think we learn all our prejudices at all. I think we can come up with them all on our own.
  • Re:Not surpised. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:39PM (#21259693) Journal
    As a not-yet-phd'ed proto-psychologist, here's how I'd put it: Kids this age are unclear on what has agency and what doesn't. They are also unclear on the division between themselves and other people - they think that everyone can see what they see, for instance, and knows what they are thinking or feeling to a certain extent and thinks/feels the same way. Add these two together, and they attribute agency to something that *acts* like other things with agency, plus assume that because it has agency, it thinks/feels/has the same needs as they do.
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @05:51PM (#21259853)
    Would you feel better if the kids call their wooden doll as their "new friend"? This has been going on for as long as toys have existed.
  • Human-assisted... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:49PM (#21260503) Journal
    Just one very big problem:

    A human operator could also make the robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away.

    So it isn't just a robot, artificially intelligent enough to fool toddlers. It's something of a human-controlled puppet, with them telling it to do more advanced things than it could figure out on its own.

    So, I guess, basically a PR stunt for Sony.
  • Re:Awww...... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:39PM (#21261007) Homepage

    Ok, maybe it's a girl thing, but kids putting a blanket over the robot when his batteries run down is about the sweetest thing I have ever heard.
    (and she notes that she called it "his", inferring gender to the asexual robot.)

    And he notes that the male pronoun is the default in the English language - and does not imply gender. (English lacks gender, unlike many other languages.)
  • by Device666 ( 901563 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @08:16PM (#21261405)
    Actually very young kids don't treat animals so much different than toys. I have seen a kid trying to use a guineepig as a little toy car. It's also no wonder kids grab the tails of cats, they would do the same with their stuffed whinnie the pooh bear. At a young age they mixup animals a lot calling a horse sheep etc. So it's not that difficult to imagine mixing up pets and robots (toys).
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:42PM (#21262585) Journal
    People said things like "it's trying to get out of the corner" and such. It's not "trying" anything, it's just following a set of equations (that I wrote) which are slightly too simple.

    What's the difference?
  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @12:17AM (#21263213) Homepage
    Oh, but is it? And why? Knowing that some people innately prefer children, that humans find it almost impossible to completely control or suppress their sex drive, and that we can't just kill pedophiles out of hand when they are discovered - logically such a device would end up saving children from molestation? Let's assume a pedophile starts with a Roomba, and adds to it piece by piece until it resembles an animatronic underage Real Doll - at what point does it become illegal?
  • by forgotten_my_nick ( 802929 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @05:44AM (#21264759)
    Someone with a bit more knowledge might be able to expand on this.

    There was a famous experiment where a researcher had his child interact with a Chimp to see if the Chimp would exhibit human behavior. He found out after a while his child actually started to act like the chimp.

    I wonder if the kids acted similar to the robot?

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis