Did you ever become angry, even screaming, at Google Maps because the app sent you via a slower route? Or have you, as opposed to being angry, ever laughed because Siri made a joke responding to a non-literal question from your mother? Or have you ever secretly had feelings for an operating system as in the movie “Her”?
Okay, the latter is perhaps a bit far away from what is going on between humans and robots nowadays. On the other hand, you surely recognize yourself in seeing objects as persons. Think of: Saying sorry to an object, referring to tables with he or him and seeing faces in just about every car driving around. In the future this will only become more and more prevalent because our digital devices are getting better in interacting with us.
It is both creepy and exciting to fantasize about a future in which robots are barely distinguishable from humans and can offer you the same in friendship as real friends. Together with your robot friend you would be able to: Kick a ball in the park or have a romantic dinner with your robot boyfriend in a restaurant. Making robots human also has a number of practical justifications:
It is more accessible and easier for humans to communicate with a robot that speaks in their own language. If you want to interact with a robot that speaks a different language than you do, the threshold will be higher to actually experiment with it. Personal home assistants like Alexa or Echo are perfect examples of robots that speak our language pretty well.
- Personal support
In therapies and home care, where a personal bond is a must, the human appearance and behavior of a robot play a major role. Think of children with behavioral disorders who have already been helped by robots to improve their social qualities. So, for them, it’s already a real robot friend (here an example).
A robot friend who can understand a human and interact with him or her can also learn to adapt itself to the person. This allows the robot to better gauge the mood of the person with whom it interacts and optimize the interaction. It knows better what he needs to say at a certain moment.
Making contact with a friend feels better than being busy with an inanimate object, so adding a layer of personality and interaction can mean a lot in the area of apps and devices that want more users which repeatedly are coming back. Users will build a friendly relationship that they cannot just ignore. So humanizing robots also has a lot of practical reasons. Who knows, a robot friend, which is indistinguishable from people, might soon be waiting for you. Can you imagine?