Magazine article The Futurist

Robots with Emotions: A Robotic Dog Shows the Impact and Importance of Machines with Feelings. (Technology)

Magazine article The Futurist

Robots with Emotions: A Robotic Dog Shows the Impact and Importance of Machines with Feelings. (Technology)

Article excerpt

Robots can already think, which is to say they can be programmed to process language and images in various ways. Now, a new generation of robots is also being programmed to feel-to identify data as pleasurable or painful and respond accordingly.

Already on the market is Sonymade AIBO, a jointed metal dog that expresses pleasure with a good earstroking and gets excited around its pink rubber ball.

The importance of emotionally equipped robots extends beyond recreation in vital ways. For robots to take on tasks in lieu of humans--for instance, searching enemy territories for hidden bunkers--they need to react the way humans would.

A number of leading computer scientists scoff at the idea of emotional robots; they believe emotions impair reality and hamper decision making. But artificial-intelligence researcher Eric Chown, an assistant professor of computer science at Maine's Bowdoin College, disagrees.

If robots are to go where humans can't go and do what humans can't--or won't--do, they need to be able to make split-second decisions, Chown explains. "Humans rely on information because we don't have sharp claws and big teeth," he says. "Emotions are an essential part of what makes us us."

When humans are sizing up a situation, they must ask three vital questions: How important is the situation (to develop priorities)? …

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