Babies Treat Robots Like Human Beings

Morphy the Robot was the centerpiece for a recent experiment conducted at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. It appears to demonstrate that babies treat expressive robots as if they are human beings.


( Andrew Meltzoff, Morphy the Robot, and Rajesh Rao )

A study at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences took a sample of 64 18-month-old babies, who were all tested individually. The experimental test had the babies sit on their parents' laps, facing a remote-controlled humanoid robot. Sitting next to the robot was Rechele Brooks, one of the researchers on the study. Brooks and the robot (controlled remotely by an unseen researcher) would then engage in a 90-second skit, in which Brooks interacted with the robot as if it was a child, asking questions like "Where is your tummy?" and "Where is your head?" The robot would in turn point to its different parts. The robot would also imitate a few arm movements, like waving back and forth.

The babies who watched this skit looked back and forth between the robot and Brooks as if "at a ping-pong match," said Brooks. After the skit, Brooks left the room, leaving the baby and the robot alone (well, along with the baby's parent--this probably isn't a punching or stabbing robot, but there's no harm in being extra safe). The robot would then beep and shift slightly to get the baby's attention, and then turn to look at a nearby toy.

In 13 out of 16 cases, the baby would follow the robot's gaze, suggesting that the baby sees the robot as a sentient being, that what the robot looks at might be of interest to the baby as well. Babies at that age distinguish between, say, a swivel chair's movement and a person's movement, and will only follow the person. But in following the robot, the study suggests that the baby has decided that robot is a human being.

This is big news for Philip K. Dick fans, who have been wondering if children would ever be accepting of robots as nannies. In his 1952 short story Nanny, children completely accept the robot as their friend and companion:

"Come on!" Bobby shouted.

Abruptly Nanny moved, spinning slightly as her treads gripped the floor and turned her around. One of her side doors opened. A long metal rod shot out. Playfully, Nanny caught Bobby's arm with her grapple and drew him to her. She perched him on her back. Bobby's legs straddled the metal hull. He kicked with his heels excitedly, jumping up and down.

"Race you around the block!" Jean shouted.

From PopSci via Frolix_8.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/18/2010)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...' - Frederik Pohl, 1954.

Bionic Eye-Hand Combo Robot Grasps Objects On Its Own
'The crawling, exploring object was V-Stephen's surgeon-hand, a self-contained robot...' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.

FarmBot, Your Personal Robotic Farmer
'A robot farmer was plowing...' - Philip K. Dick, 1954.

Fukushima Plant Needs Radiation-Proof Scorpion Robots
'...with lead-bodied, radio-remote controlled androids, it's easier.' - Mari Wolf, 1952.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'

ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'

Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'

Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'

Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'

Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'

Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.

Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'

Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.