'Robots are a step in human evolution'

'Robots are a step in human evolution'

World May 11, 2018 10:57

- The Japanese professor Hiroshi Ishiguro became famous with spectacular robots that he accurately modeled himself to the pore. 'The more human the robot, the easier we communicate with it,' he says.

The joke is made a lot and Ishiguro does not shy away from him either: How does the interviewer know that his interlocutor is the real professor and not one of the exact like humanoid robots he has made? 'Are you sure I am?' Asks the professor when he raises the issue of whether you are dealing with a congener or a robot.

The professor, who is always dressed in black as his mechanical double-minded, has been making a big difference for more than ten years with the robots with which he has copied himself. Ishiguro uses them to investigate how people react to devices that are similar to, but are not, a similar species. The first were still completely remotely controlled and voiced by a human, while newer ones can increasingly become themselves.

During a presentation at the And \u0026 Festival of the University of Leuven, Ishiguro showed last week how his intelligent female robot, Erica, added even more as a personality. The public saw her get angry with a student who indicated that they would prefer to receive lessons from a human being, whereas according to Erica scientific evidence had shown that robots are better teachers.

It made the robot- according to Ishiguro the most beautiful in the world- a lot more interesting than the good yes-marbles and your wish-is-my-command-types that come from most robot factories.

Through the emotional reaction Erica becomes more human and sympathetic.

'Erica gets angry to achieve her desired goal in this way. In that urge is the origin of emotion. I think that the next step in the development of robots will be that they will not only look more like people in the outer sense, but also that they are provided with desires and certain intentions. In addition, we will build a huge database that can be used to greatly improve conversational skills. '

Is it also important that Erica looks like a beautiful woman?

'I wanted to make a popular robot and another advantage is that one of the characteristics of a beautiful face is that facial expressions can be clearly read. Only very small movements are needed for this. '

What is the idea behind your research with highly realistic robots?

'I am interested in people. My research focuses on the interaction between people with robots that show a very strong resemblance to people. We know that our brains are very much attuned to dealing with and recognizing people. By studying this, we can find new ways to improve the interaction between people and robots. '

Why would we want robots that look like humans?

'For example, in order to overcome the consequences of aging in Japan, it will be important in the future that people with robots live in a good relationship. Because our brain is so focused on human faces, it becomes more natural and easier to deal with them when robots look like humans. That is the most important scientific goal of my work. '

Do your realistic-looking robots also have practical value?

'I use my robot myself to give lectures if I can not attend. You can also use them as a receptionist, newsreader or television presenter. Robots with a human appearance are especially useful in situations where there is short-term interaction. A mechanic-looking robot works better for longer conversations. '

Do you think we will soon be surrounded by human-looking robots?

'No, because they are very expensive to make. In Japan there is a smart speaker in many households such as Alexa or Google Home. The next version of Alexa is already equipped with a screen and I expect the generation to be the first human forms. People do not like to talk to a box. They want to talk to a person. '

Robots that ultimately become more like us, cherish their own intentions and desires and maybe become smarter in the future than we do: is that desirable?

'We have to be careful and install safety measures so that we can always switch them off at the touch of a button. I see the development of robots as a part of humanity. The use of technology is what distinguishes us from monkeys. It is a step in evolution. Not changes in the genes, but being able to apply technology allows us to go to the moon. '

Do we not run the risk of becoming superfluous ourselves and that feelings that we develop for those increasingly sympathetic robots are at the expense of the emotional bond with our fellow human beings?

'I think it is necessary that we develop a good relationship with robots. I do not see why we have to deal with robots differently than with people, if we can ultimately develop the same feelings for them. Why should there be a difference between people and robots? I do not understand that. '

Do you think that robots should also have rights like people?

'I do not see why. If we want to have a good relationship with robots, then we will also have to give them rights. But that is not for scientists and engineers like me, but for society. It must determine whether robots are included in it. '

When does that play? In Saudi Arabia, the first robot has already received citizenship.

'That was more of a joke. But I think it is still too early, because the technology still has to improve a lot, especially when it comes to general intelligence, before they reach the level of a human being. '

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