Chapter 3 – True Companions

With the introduction of robots like the Sony’s AIBO, a robotic dog, many ideas of what is alive and what is not start to change. The AIBO takes the relationship of user and robot a little bit further.  With the Tamagotchi you had to clean, heal, feed and take general care of the little bugger. The Furby presented a more realistic body with fur and also what seemed to be a true learning curve that made kids adopt the real role of parent or teacher.  This AIBO takes all these elements to the next stage.

Depending of how he is treated, he will evolve or adapt to those type of treatments.  This means it will create some sort of ‘personality’.  That’s what we needed, robots with issues and demands.  This rephrases the previous topics of “alive enough” and “sort of alive”.  Now with these robots, we have to consider their feelings.  Kids no longer have to explain how their favorite toy is feeling, the little robot will provide feedback to that in which the children or user will have to adapt to it.

Sherry Turkle brings up a very interesting concept: alterity.

“The ability to see the world through the eyes of another”.  “Without alterity there can be no empathy”.

And empathy I will argue is one of the main elements that will make robots true companions.  They can be able to train people or kids before they get the real live ‘thing’. Some kids even prefer the robot than the real thing, the same as adults [as mentioned on previous posts]. When kids compare them to their previous toys, they refer to them as more real  because those robots can be able to adapt like a living animal.

People see in these robots a “window to express their feelings”.  They know the robot will provide a response and for that reason is not like talking to a Teddy Bear.  Our imagination and the social need of not being alone, I believe directs us to believe these things, o to believe on these robots.

I saw this video on Youtube in which a cat is just playing nearby the AIBO.  It is interesting the comments that people stated.

  • AIBO is my household’s favourite pet, a view not shared by our rather jealous cat Nike…
  • enjoy your AIBO, but please don’t neglect your cat.
  • Cool toy! How do u take care of it?
  • It is a sad day for the animal kingdom. Robots are officially more intelligent than them.
  • roflmao!!! he asked where’s the ball and the dog got scared and knocked itself over! hahahaha
  • your cat is like 1000x times better than this non functioning dog crap

Most of the comments give the AIBO live characteristics.  But most of them are still comparing them to the real thing.  This means the possibility of replacement is still there.


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