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Making the Emotional Robot: the future of Artificial Intelligence

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Tommy Stolpestad

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Susanna Short and Will Sedo share their thoughts on robotic automation.

SEER+is+a+robot+that+has+eye+tracking+technology+and+because+of+the+way+it+makes+contact+with+viewers%2C+seems+to+have+its+own+intentions+and+emotions.
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Making the Emotional Robot: the future of Artificial Intelligence

SEER is a robot that has eye tracking technology and because of the way it makes contact with viewers, seems to have its own intentions and emotions.

SEER is a robot that has eye tracking technology and because of the way it makes contact with viewers, seems to have its own intentions and emotions.

Flickr CC: Martin Hieslmair

SEER is a robot that has eye tracking technology and because of the way it makes contact with viewers, seems to have its own intentions and emotions.

Flickr CC: Martin Hieslmair

Flickr CC: Martin Hieslmair

SEER is a robot that has eye tracking technology and because of the way it makes contact with viewers, seems to have its own intentions and emotions.

Today, artificial intelligence otherwise known as AI, is a term that widely used to describe new up and coming machines like self-driving cars and chess-playing computers. But according to Systemic Analytics System, the term AI was coined in 1956 when in the 1960s, the US Department of Defense took interest in problem-solving and symbolic methods and began training computers to mimic basic human reasoning. This early work paved the way for the automation and formal reasoning that is seen in computers today, including decision support systems and smart search systems that can be designed to complement and augment human abilities. While Hollywood movies and science fiction novels depict AI as human-like robots that take over the world, the current evolution of AI technologies isn’t that scary – or quite that smart.

While it is becoming widely accepted that robotic automation has changed the work industry from taking low skill occupations from humans to becoming the foundation for multiple companies. In a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, it is estimated that 800 million people worldwide will lose their jobs to automation. These statistics raise many questions about the ethics and use of robotic automation. In a rapidly advancing world with new forms of artificial intelligence seemingly being invented every day, where is the line being drawn in terms of how much AI plays a role in our society?

Where is the line being drawn in terms of how much AI plays a role in our society?”

Aside from more labor-heavy jobs that will more logically be taken over by robots in the following years, some places are trying to implement AI into jobs that require an emotional capacity. According to SoftBank Robotics, in 2014, created the first prototype of a humanoid robot. A year later, Pepper was named the world’s first social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and basic human emotions. Pepper was optimized for human interaction and is able to engage with people through conversation and his touchscreen. Pepper went on sale in Japan in June for $1650, with the first batch of 1,000 units selling out in just 60 seconds. Pepper is now being used all over the world, commercially, academically, and consumerly. Pepper “has 20 degrees of freedom for natural and expressive movements.” Pepper is used at Microsoft to introduce, entertain, and inform customers.

In countries like Japan and others, robots are being implemented into jobs that require emotional capacity like being an assistant, posing the question: can robots be replaced by jobs that require emotions?

The robot “Pepper” is not a human, it is being used to perform tasks that require an organic emotional capacity. If technology is advancing at such a rapid rate, can jobs such as teachers and therapists be replaced by robotic counterparts?

According to Susanna Short, the guidance counselor at Saint Paul Academy and Summit School, it is highly unlikely that a machine would be able to perform the tasks of jobs that require emotion.

The robot needs to be able to sense all of the different inputs, and I don’t believe at this time that a robot would be able to interpret all that is going on in a situation”

— 9th Grader Will Sedo

“How many times in a therapist’s office does [a patient or a student] somebody tell you they are fine, but if you are a confident therapist you can say, buddy, you don’t look fine. A robot couldn’t do that,” Short said.

She pointed out the flaws that would arise while trying to build a robotic counterpart to a therapist. “The way you would build [the robot], is you would just code all the possible answers to, ‘I’m feeling really sad.’”

She continued by saying, “There’s subconscious fear, there’s fear of vulnerability, there’s trauma that people work really hard to not expose, and a robot would almost encourage people to suppress that.”

9th grader Will Sedo also believes that it will not be until the distant future that robotic automation could even come close to replacing jobs that require emotion.

“I think it would be really a challenge to be able to program a robot to be some kind of psychiatrist, or something like that, because there are so many different possibilities and there are so many things that a human is able to look for in a patient, the verbal and non-verbal cues, that I think it might be harder for a robot to pick up on,” Sedo explained.

He continued by describing the traits necessary for a robot to complete the task of a teacher or a psychiatrist.

“The robot needs to be able to sense all of the different inputs, and I don’t believe at this time that a robot would be able to interpret all that is going on in a situation,” said Sedo.

While the trend for machines replacing workers is significant in many fields, according to an article by Fast Company, this is not the case. The article states that jobs like teachers, doctors, nurses, therapist, and other jobs that involve human interaction and emotional capacity are secure from being fully replaced by robotic automation. While more technology and machines will most certainly continue to be implemented into these fields, the emotional capacity required in these professions cannot be replicated in a machine.

Some of these apps and other things could be useful as add-ons.”

— Susanna Short

Although a few people in the SPA community do not believe that robotic automation will be able to fully replace jobs that require emotional capacity, at least not for a long time, it is clear that technology can still benefit all fields of work in some aspect. Ms. Short explained how she thinks technology can be usefully implemented into jobs that require emotion.

“Some of these apps and other things could be useful as add-ons,” she said.

The original image from Ars Electronica can be found at Flickr CC.

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About the Writer
Tommy Stolpestad, Sports Editor

Tommy Stolpestad is the Co-Sports Editor on The Rubicon. He is a junior and he has been on staff since his sophomore year. He enjoys being able to share...

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