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Ultra-realistic robots test our relationship with machines

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 02:21

May 25 - An ultra-realistic robot, known as a geminoid, is helping psychologists test how we relate to machines. The device is designed to be almost identical to the professor who's leading the project in Denmark. Stuart McDill reports.

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Professor Henrik Scharfe is on the left. On the right is a robot mimicking his every move. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HENRIK SCHARFE, AALBORG UNIVERSITY SAYING: "It's a little bit like science fiction but without the fiction part, we call it science faction. The robot is called Geminoid DK and is designed to help us understand how we relate to technology. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HENRIK SCHARFE, AALBORG UNIVERSITY SAYING: "It really makes people think about the role of technology in their everyday life." There are three Geminoid robots in the world and DK is the first with a non-Japanese character. It is now helping Professor Scharfe at Aalborg University in Denmark to study human-robot interaction and how far we are prepared to let that relationship go. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HENRIK SCHARFE, AALBORG UNIVERSITY SAYING: "Imagine for instance that you have someone like this sitting at a kindergarten telling stories -- Now, people usually object to this idea and then I ask them are you happy with a TV or DVD set doing the same thing and they typically say Oh, yes. So, I'm interested in what makes up the difference here." The difference of course is that Geminoid DK looks and moves like a person - unlike the more familiar technology with which we interact on a daily basis. (SOUNDBITE)(English) ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HENRIK SCHARFE, AALBORG UNIVERSITY SAYING: "Remember the first time you saw an ATM machine. For most people that was appalling. We used to have human contact when we needed to get money out of the bank -- but in general I think that people are happy to accept that we have choices. So for some cases I want to go into the bank and have a conversation at other times I'm perfectly happy with the ATM in the street or the robotic waiter at the restaurant, or the robotic receptionist or the story telling machine in the kindergarten or the visiting friend at a hospital bedside." There are examples of robots that we are quite happy to interact with. This is Paro, a robotic baby seal, that studies have shown has a positive, therapeutic effect on the emotional lives of some older people who enjoy holding and stroking the device. And we will know more soon. DK will be introduced to unsuspecting shoppers in Denmark this summer and the Professor is also considering using the robot to dismiss a member of staff to see how they respond. Man's - or machine's - inhumanity to man . Stuart McDill, Reuters, Denmark

Ultra-realistic robots test our relationship with machines

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 02:21

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