Week 1, Jan. 29


Find a video, image or description of a robot that you find interesting on the web.

Start your Post with a link to the robot you found.

Include a description of why you find it interesting.

Discuss the anthropomorphic (human-like) characteristics that it has. How is the robot like or unlike a person visually, structurally, behaviorally, mentally, emotionally, etc.?

Feel free to comment on the posts of your classmates.

Your Posts are due by the start of class on January 29.


One Response to “Week 1, Jan. 29”

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=434331&in_page_id=1965





    On the Ben-Gurion University campus in Be’er Sheva, Israel, at the Alon Building for Hi-Tech there is a new employee, a Japanese receptionist named Ms. Saya. Ms. Saya is unique because she is a robotic receptionist, developed by Hiroshi Kobayashi. Ms. Saya has been programmed with the capability of holding short, basic conversations with those who address her through a microphone at her desk (yes, she has her own desk). “With voice recognition technology allowing 700 verbal responses and an almost infinite number of facial expressions from joy to despair, surprise to rage, Saya may not be biological — but she is nobody’s fool (Washington Post).” I had the pleasure of meeting her randomly during my study abroad experience at Ben-Gurion Uni. during the spring of 2007, but to be honest, she was not always working properly when I would pass through on my way to or from class (I believe I visited her 4 times).

    I think Ms. Saya is a particularly interesting robot because of her pragmatic nature and usefulness, but also because she is able to imitate human behavior to a highly specialized degree. Indeed, Ms. Saya may be the best of any artificial or biological simulation of basic ‘human’ behavior outside the human race itself. Elephants can paint and chimpanzees can make tools, but Ms. Saya can wink at me as I walk by… That is pretty amazing to me. If I didn’t realize she was a robot and saw her wink at me as I walked by, I might turn around and look her up and down (checking her out) and because she, a non-human, can inspire that human reaction in other humans, she has in my mind expressed herself in ways a machine has never done before. Additionally, her facial expressions give her an added dimension of reality beyond verbal clarity and correctness where she has the ability to communicate with humans on a ‘personal’ level. I do not know the full scope of her programming, but technically its possible that she could hit on a passerby by winking at him or even stick her tongue out, if she has one, at someone who insulted her, highlighting the versatility of her behavior.

    Ms. Saya’s power is to seamlessly interact with human counterparts, at least when they acknowledge or address her. I mean, I could ask my cat what time it is or where to find my philosophy professor and she’ll meow at me; yet, when I pose the same questions to a lifeless bunch of metal and circuitry with a Japanese smile on her face, she answers me politely with a smile, unless of course I get testy with her…

    While interacting with Ms. Saya, inventor Kobayashi told her, “You’re so stupid!” She responded in kind with, “Eh?” her face wrinkling into a scowl, afterward adding, “I tell you, I am not stupid! (Washington Post)” Kobayashi commented that, “She has a temper . . . and she sometimes makes mistakes, especially when she has low energy (Washington Post).” It is interesting to note that Kobayashi bestows upon her certain human characteristics based on her preprogrammed reactions, begging the obvious question, is Ms. Saya either partially or wholly human in any sense?

    I have no idea where to begin answering that question. I guess that is why I signed up for this course. Maybe by the end, we will all be able to answer the above question satisfactorily.

    Ms. Saya is an example of how human ingenuity has produced machines that are able to more closely resemble humans with each passing day and each new technological advance. Because Ms. Saya forces me to question her potential humanity in the most fundamental ways, I am forced to question my humanity in the most fundamental ways and therefore she is an important step in the pursuit of our own human understanding. If anything, Ms. Saya’s ability to replicate ‘authentic’ human behavior consistently in her receptionist role is important because maybe in ten years I can hire her to be my secretary and I wont even have to pay her (but I might take her out to lunch every once in a while if she keeps winking at me).

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