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Robots To Replace Today's Human Companions?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on May 23, 2005

Toshiba just unveiled its new robot, ApriAttenda, which can talk with its owners as well as follow the owners around by recognizing their voice and/or appearance in a crowd of people. The robot, as per Toshiba, brings us closer to the times when machines (and ApriAttenda looks super cute!) will function as our “life support partners”, by caring for the elderly and babysitting the children.

As more such machines come out, I wonder if they could, potentially, take place of our human companions of today: dogs, cats and other humans.

Consider: You don't need to take a robot for a walk in the park, or pick up his poop. You don't need to worry about leaving your robot alone when you go on a trip.

And a robot can't just drop you because his social network has gotten too large, and he can no longer keep in touch with all of his friends.

Seriously, so many people already are socializing through machines nowadays that I won't be surprised if some of them shut out the real world completely when robotic life support partners become available (and good enough). Lots of people spend hours writing their blogs and interacting with people in their online social networks -- people they'd never met and will never meet.

Robots could, potentially, displace even more real-world interaction. After all, unlike real people, cats and dogs, they will always be agreable, and they will never scratch or bite you.

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Reader Comments

Jack Krupansky

May 23, 2005 02:03 PM

"After all, unlike real people, cats and dogs, they will always be agreable, and they will never scratch or bite you." ... Wait till the hackers get started with viruses, spam, and DoC attacks (Denial of Companionship). And what makes you think that some AI jokesters won't figure out how to program these cute little machines to engage in guilt tripping?

That said, there are certainly plenty of opportunities for robots (and their non-physical cousins, software agents) to provide all sorts of useful -- and friendly -- social support functions.

-- Jack Krupansky

Cristina Pesante

July 14, 2005 03:45 AM

I think that the issue of Robots Companions is very sensitive. For this reason, a group of Robotics scientists funded a Roboethics Committee

Marivic Santiago

June 24, 2008 06:23 AM

The prototype is nice but I strongly support Mr. Krupansky's point. Hackers are everywhere and hackers are far more intelligent that these human-companion-robots. Thanks for the comments, it helped me a lot in a study I am doing. God bless!


March 23, 2009 03:19 PM


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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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