I listened with delight and amazement to CBC radio yesterday on my drive home from work. They were featuring an interview with Cory Kidd, a researcher at MIT who has designed and constructed a robotic weight-loss coach. The concept is simple, really. You have a small robot with a head-shaped top that you leave in your kitchen. It tracks your diet and exercise, and give you tips based upon the goals you have set.
While this is a fascinating and interesting field, and probably very helpful to those trying to lose weight and keep it of, what truly delighted and amazed me was the human response to the robots. According to Mr. Kidd, most of the robots used in initial studies were given human names by their users, that is, people anthropomorphized the robots, and gave them even more human qualities. And that apparently translated into a higher degree of success.
As a child, I assumed that by now we would all be living in a Jetson’s world of flying cars, and sassy robotic maids. Although that future is still a ways off, we are obviously getting closer. What is interesting is that, instead of waiting for sassy robotic maids, people are infusing personalities and human characteristics and attributes onto the machines we have now. This seems such a delightfully human response.
Now, how do I get one of those robots?