Robotics How cute does a robot have to be?

Robotics How cute does a robot have to be?

Robotics How cute does a robot have to be?
How cute does a robot have to be?  Source: dpa Picture Alliance

On this evening, there was little to suggest that it could be dangerous for K5: the robot quietly rolls over a parking lot in Mountain View to patrol at dusk. A white cone with flashing lights, reminiscent of R2-D2 from the movie “Star Wars”, in the middle of technology-loving Silicon Valley. Suddenly, however, a drunk rams the robot from the side and knocks it over. The police come to protect him.

K5 got away with a few scratches. At Knightscope, however, the company that builds the safety robot, you are now faced with the question of how a machine has to be created so that humans can get along well with it.

Ishiguro Source: Patrick Schuch for WirtschaftsWoche

Engineers around the world think they are at the beginning of the robot era. The androids are supposed to help with the care of the elderly, do the shopping, and vacuum the carpet and cook at home. But whether this new era really begins depends not only on powerful chips, sophisticated algorithms and enormous computing power. If industry wants to win people’s trust, it must also build robots in such a way that they accept them by their side. Scientists are still faced with many puzzles – and age-old instincts have to be overcome.

How robots should become safer

Martina Mara has been looking for the key to robot sympathy at the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria, for eight years. Once the doctor of psychology put the android of the Japanese robot pope Hiroshi Ishiguro in the cafeteria of her museum. Ishiguro created the machine, pimped up with artificial intelligence, in his own image. She looks so much like him that she sometimes even teaches at Osaka University.

Fascination and eeriness

In everyday life, the Japanese are considered to be more open-minded towards robots, which is probably due to the country’s religious history. When the cafeteria guests in Linz noticed the robot, they approached cautiously, but still kept their distance. This is due to a mixture of fascination and eeriness, says Mara.

She made the same observation when the museum showed the mannequin-like robot Telenoid, which provides information and can imitate facial expressions and gestures in addition to the human voice. Some visitors did not even want to touch the silicone skin of the robot when specifically asked to.

These jobs stir up robots
Many work steps are already being carried out by machines today - but networked production is also setting in motion another wave of automation in the factory floor.  The bottom line is that this does not necessarily have to lead to job losses, according to the economy: At the end of 2016, Germany was third in the world for “robot density” behind South Korea and Japan - and yet employment is at a record level, explains mechanical engineering Association VDMA.  The president of the electronics industry association ZVEI, Michael Ziesemer, also says: “More jobs can be created than lost.” Digitization will create a large number of new business models and thus new positions.
Networked and automated driving should make many jobs superfluous in the future Source: dpa
Office paperwork, order processing and billing - office and commercial specialists carry out work according to expert assessments that can already be automated to a high degree today.  This could also put many jobs at stake: More than 1.6 million people in Germany are employed in such professions.  Source: dpa
Retail was one of the first industries to be captured by digitization - accordingly, many processes in online retail are automated. Source: dpa
They milk the cows, feed, muck out and help with the harvest - robots have long since found their way into the farms. Source: dpa
Robots in care - what is already part of everyday life in Japan, still causes many people in Germany to be uncomfortable Source: dpa
Robots are also already doing their job in the household Source: dpa

The relationship between humans and machines is complicated: it has been shown that the likelihood that humans show robots increases the more human the machine looks. But that only works up to the point at which the robot appears almost completely human. From then on, a strong feeling of horror suddenly sets in. As we know from Hollywood films, this will only be overcome when robots and humans can no longer be distinguished.

Robot scientists call the effect Uncanny Valley, in English: the valley of uncanny. Experts argue about why the phenomenon exists. Some suggest that very human-looking robots instigate an ancient instinct in humans. The robots may remind them of sick people or corpses from which they want to stay away in order to protect themselves. The reflex is anchored in the subconscious.