Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Robot Friends

A lighthearted and robotic AI for you all today!

This video was brought to my attention via Steve D. and was going to be in the quickies on our art and science blog, Mad Art Lab but it really got me thinking and I couldn’t wait to share it.

Every time the robots dropped the ball I heard myself say, “Awwwwww.” I felt kinda sad. :(

I reacted as if the little electric ball catchers had feelings but it was only my personal experience (with dropping the ball) and innate empathy projected upon the little robotic critters. It surprised me that I instinctively and instantly reacted as though they were conscious beings and these aren’t even CUTE robots!

Then I thought ZOMG! I want a robot friend!

Would you like a robot friend and if so what kind of robot? One that cooks and cleans or one that is programmed to love you? Do you think robots can effectively replace pets and even other people as companions in the future? Would you like to come over to my place and play catch on the lawn?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I don’t know…robots are only likely to be trustworthy six extra seconds in comparison to human beings, at least according to Aperture Science.

  2. Hmm. What I look for in a friend is someone who has as interesting life on their own and then we get together occasionally and compare notes. My idea robot friend would be very much like my meat friends. I wouldn’t mind a robot juggling partner, though.

  3. I REALLY want a robot cat. I can’t have a cat in real life because of my stupid allergies.

    Dear science and technology,

    Please send robotic, Mittens. AKA: “Purr-Bot”


  4. I don’t know. I think I’d have a hard time getting past the whole “it’s just a machine” thing. Part of me would always be thinking that any appearance of emotion or empathy was calculated …literally.

    On the other hand, I’d probably pay to see davew do a juggling act with a robot.

  5. I’m not expecting any artificial friends outside of Facebook yet, but if I had my choice, I’d like Robby the Robot.

    Also, when the robots drop the ball, I’d like to see the one that muffs it call out, “My bad! My bad! Don’t let it go into the gutter!”

  6. I think robots would make lousy friends but excellent sidekicks.

    My robot sidekick would have to a) travel with me, b) be able to hand me things which means c) he’d have to have really long arms to get stuff from high places and low places, d) have a refrigerator compartment for beverages and lunch, e) have a massively fast internet connection, the ability to do text to voice, and print hardcopies, and f) have a bullet proof shield it can stick up in front of me on demand.

    Also, if the chance to become a cyborg happens in my lifetime, I am all over it.

  7. I watched the video before I read the post and I entirely went “aww” when he dropped the ball. (And I just realized I referred to a robot as a “he” despite it not even being remotely humanoid.)

    So, yes, I would entirely like a robot companion.

    And I would like to play catch.

    This actually makes me think of Aineko, the cat character from Accelerando by Charles Stross. That’s kind of what I think of when I think of a robot pet or companion.

  8. Since I don’t have any actual friends I could really use a robot friend. Heck, even a simple ball catching Quadrocopter would be nice. We could play catch in the park. At least until he dumped me for someone with more propellers. Someone who could throw better. Someone who could jump higher than a foot of the ground. Bastard.

  9. @Steve D: I second that. I, too, would pay to see Davew in a juggling act with a robot. Actually, make that a robot act with a Juggalo. Yeah. That.

    Also, I’ve wanted to be friends with R2-d2 since I was 2 years old. And I still want that. Such a sassy little droid.

  10. I could definitely use a team of robot servants. To bring me tea in bed of a morning, to do my make-up for me while I doze, to make me breakfast, do the dishes, clean the house…
    I don’t think I’d want a robot that was programmed to love me. That would be wierd.

  11. The real question is, who do you want protecting your back in a zombie apocalypse? (This is how I always pick my friends.)

    Little hovering robot that bounces balls – not a friend. 5 metre tall armoured humanoid with chainsaw sword, laser eyes and shoulder mounted rocket pods – friend.

  12. Aren’t humans “programmed” to love? I think my dog feels love, or is she she “programmed” to look so cute I just have to give her the the cookie?
    But on a more practical note, when I am old and decrepit I would really appreciate a robot helper so I could remain independent and not be a burden on my kids.

    Favorite robot: Data minus the pancake makeup.

  13. @Laika: Well, if we’re talking fully functional robots… that’s a whole different story. I guess I thought “programmed to love me” meant something a little different.
    I’ll take a young Jeff Goldbloom model, if I may.

  14. I’m on the robot servant bandwagon. The closest thing available is a roomba, but I want one that also cleans toilets and unloads the dishwasher and can bring me a beer on command. I don’t want it to look human. I think I’d like a utilitarian non-humanoid form.

    I don’t think I’d play catch with it, but if I could load it with tennis balls and take it down to the rec center for some solo play, that would be nice.

  15. I’m definitely for robots, don’t get me wrong. But if I were to have one as a friend or companion I would probably want it to have artificial intelligence rather than virtual. Something like EDI in “Mass effect 2″(I don’t know if that would be a “robot per se”.

    Any robot that was forced to do anything against its will(or lack there of), I wouldn’t see as anything more than a rather complex, but awesome, tool

  16. As someone that is both partially disabled and aging (too damned fast), I would like to see a home robot/droid that would be able to help me do what I should not or cannot. I guess I’m getting practical in my old age…A sexy fembot isn’t too appealing to me anymore. (Sorry, guys. There’s a certain amount of truth to the jokes about men and age…)

    This droid would help me with picking up items that weigh more than my limits, helping with chores, personal protection, etc. The mental stimulation and companionship of an AI might be interesting, too. Something like the AI’s in the “Culture” novel series or Cdr. Data appeals to me. I could see myself coming to relate to a droid like that as a friend and companion, just as humans do in those novels/shows.

    I definitely would want a droid to have high intelligence, a sort of compassion/willingness to assist, good conversation skills, some physical strength, access to the Web, etc.

  17. @genjokoan: Yes, I have a scary mind. Or maybe someone at Wired is reading our posts! Or yeah, synchronicity.

    Either way… Mwah ha ha ha! Send me my ugly robot army at once!

  18. The future for some people is exemplified by jet packs- all I want is a robot. I’m not that crazy about pets, but a robot is right up my alley. Then I could run around town solving crimes with my own R. Daneel Olivaw

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