Anyone who questions the linkage between robots and emotions clearly hasn’t seen the 1986 film, Short Circuit.  Are you with me fellow children of the 80’s?:

New Scientist‘s Catherine de Lange wrote a piece this week which casts the linkage between robots, emotions, and what it means to be alive in her recap of today’s robotic facial expressions and more.  A quote from her piece, Emotion 2.0:

“Robot” comes from the Czech word “robota” which means “work” or “forced labourer.” Indeed, in the early days, robots were seen as a way to make light work of tedious tasks. Who doesn’t want a robot that does the housework or makes the tea? But instead of creating a modern-day, indefatigable Jeeves, much robotics research today focuses on creating emotional machines. Robots started out conceptually as automaton-servants but are now helping us get to grips with what makes us human.

Jules, the posh robot from the University of Bristol, UK, is equipped with tiny motors under its skin, which means it can accurately mimic human facial expressions. Jules is a disembodied head though, and while its copycat technique is impressive, robots need to do more than copy us to be able to interact on an emotional level.

A step up the emotional adeptness scale, AIDA, the driving companion, uses its facial expressions to respond to the driver’s mood – looking sad if a seatbelt is undone, for instance, or detecting that you are tense as you drive and helping you relax.

How will robots play a role in the future of emotion?