Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kansei: Robots Finally Get Emotions? (With Pictures And Video)

Meet Kansei, a humanoid robot that is able to smile or frown according to an artificial flow of consciousness. Or should I say smile or gaze open-mouthed like an eerie robot overlord?

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If you think that's scary, usher small children out of the room then take a look at this video of Kansei's detatched head 'smiling and frowning'. I'm pretty sure I had a nightmare exactly like that once.

So what's this all about? How do you get a robot to have emotions?

Kansei was made by a team from Meiji University (that's in Japan, yah I know you're real surprised by that one). Anyway they built a software program that extracts word associations from a database of 430,000 words. The word database was built from sentences taken from the internet.

The program then assigns values to the word associations, calculates the values, and then prompts the robot to express whether something is pleasant or unpleasant based on the value.

If Kansei likes something he will smile. If he doesn't like it he will shoot lasers from his eyes and destroy you.

Take 'fish', for example. Kansei says "fish is fresh" and smiles. He decides there is no need to turn you into a pile of ash.

What's the point of making a robot with emotions?

Kansei's developers say his ability to communicate feelings takes robots one step closer to recognizing when humans are happy or sad. This is crucial for doing tasks that right now are deemed outside the realm of machines.

The Meiji University team hopes to one day make robots that care for the elderly, clean your house, greet people at a reception desk, and other things (like enslave the human race).

Can Kansei-type robots can develop individual personalities?

Yes. Different robots can be instructed to search the 'database' in different ways or even at random. A Discoverychannel.com article on the subject says:

...not only will the robots be able to express their feelings, they will also begin to exhibit personal taste.


Er, so is this a good or bad thing?

Well, I don't think that it's a bad thing per se. But I do think it's a good idea to tread carefully in this area of robotics.

Setting up machines to develop their own thoughts, feelings, and personalities will inevitably lead to ethical dilemmas (similar to the 'human brained monkeys' problem). I mean what happens when one day a robot says "I don't want to die...and I want control over my life"?

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More:

'Robot in touch with it's inner feelings'

'Robot In Touch With It's Emotions'

Endgadget: 'Kansei, Japan's Emotional Robot'

'Just Like Humans, This Robot Can Pretend To Care'

Delphiki: 'The Age Of Cockroach Robots'

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