Spot the Robot!

Posted on: March 29, 2017 by Jordan Janeczko

Please no! This is obviously a toy and not a robot. But the promise of robots moving out of the industrial space and into the home is becoming more and more realistic.

There are 2 kinds of home robots that R&D is focusing on. The first are the “instrumental robots”, little brothers of the industrial robots and likewise designed for specific tasks: vacuuming the floor or mowing the lawn. The more advanced category is sometimes called “social robots” – those that in the future could help elderly with daily tasks, support in hospital settings, and other more personal tasks. And the logic is this: since the tasks these robots perform are social, giving them a human form will make them more accepted by the people who should use and benefit from them. But this has some perhaps unintended consequences. If a driving idea behind making robots look like people is their users will psychologically be more accepting of them, then touching their keyboard for entering commands would not only be counter-intuitive, it would arguably be too intimate. We will innately expect to interact with these computers using verbal communication, facial communication, gestures – and expect simulated “eye contact”, spatial distance and other cultural queues will be adhered to by the robots.

Voice recognition has been around since the 80s but it took the mobile phone with hands-free features to make people psychologically comfortable walking down the street apparently talking to themselves. Now that we are comfortable “talking to nobody”, we are comfortable talking to a piece of glass and metal in the form of Siri, or Alexa, or Cortana. It’s fairly easy to see how this will be psychologically easy.

Having a social robot that is able to visually and physically represent the right social queues to gain acceptance, however, will be a tougher challenge. First of all, because these are culturally dependent – robotics engineers will have to adjust these based on the countries they sell their products to. There is also the problem of social acceptance about robots in the first place. There are already studies about the correlation between a society’s positive or negative view of robots, the amount of R&D spent on robotics, and if those robots tend to have an instrumental / use based form or a social robot / human looking.

Could it be that in the future there will be a competitive advantage to countries which are already socially biased to accept robots? At the rate of technological advancement, it won’t take long to find out.

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About Jordan Janeczko
Cloud Strategist at Atos and member of the Scientific Community
Jordan Janeczko is the Cloud Strategist for the Global Systems Integration of Atos and a member of the Scientific Community. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Computer Science, he started working for Siemens in their software division in Vienna, Austria. While there, he has worked on many research and development topics– for example in 1992 on collaboration software projects for the European Space Agency, in 1995 on Voice over IP technologies. Staying in the area of new product development but moving to product and portfolio management, in 1999 he started working in the area of the IP-Based Multimedia Subsystem for mobile network providers. Since 2009 Jordan has been helping define and build secure cloud services and cloud integration services, and has been invited as a cloud thought leader to speak at many global cloud events. In the Scientific Community, Jordan is working on Big Data and Cloud Computing, and in GSI he is globally responsible for the cloud computing strategy.

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