Friday, 9 May 2008

1st "Robot Love" Conference

Seriously though, while this conference may have been inspired by a book entitled "Love + Sex With Robots," the themes engaged with at this conference range from "Ethical Aspects of Personal Human-robot Interaction" to "Gender Representation in Social Robot Design" to "The Ethical Treatment of Artificially Conscious Robots."

It is definitely my pleasure to present my own research at this new conference in the research field of human-robot interaction: The 1st International Conference on Human-Robot Personal Relationships, at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Within the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Robot Interaction, the past few years have witnessed a strong upsurge of interest in the more personal aspects of human relationships with these artificial partners. Nowhere has this strength of interest been more apparent than at Maastricht University, where the defense of a recent PhD thesis, “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners”, attracted wide media publicity on an unprecedented scale; therefore, Maastricht University is organizing and hosting the 1st International Conference on Human-Robot Personal Relationships, June 12-13, 2008.

Conference sessions are planned on the following topics:

• Robot Emotions
• Robot Personalities
• Gender Approaches
• Affective Approaches
• Psychological Approaches
• Sociological Approaches
• Roboethics
• Philosophical Approaches

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Dr. David Levy, Author of the much publicized book: Love + Sex With Robots and Dr. Ronald Arkin who is doing very interesting research in the area of human-robot interaction and robot ethics.

The research I will be presenting is a study of two very high profile sociable robot projects, one in the US and one in Japan: Kismet & Repliee. My abstract is attached below:


This work examines the emergence of humanoid social robots in Japan and the United States with a view to comparing and contrasting two prominent social robot projects. In the American case, I look at the work of Cynthia Breazeal at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and her social robot, Kismet. In the Japanese case, at the Osaka University, I consider the work of Hiroshi Ishiguro and the humanoid social robot Repliée-Q2. Inspired by the framework of Weber and Bath (2007, p. 123), I first distinguish between the utilitarian and the affective social robot and situate Kismet and Repliée within the latter category. Then, drawing on video interviews, text interviews, and the published works of Breazeal and Ishiguro I examine the proposed vision of each researcher. Next, I examine specific characteristics (embodied and social intelligence, morphology and aesthetics, and moral equivalence) of Kismet and Repliée with a view to comparing the underlying concepts associated with each. These features are in turn connected to the societal preconditions of each robot’s emergence. Specifically, the role that the history of robots, theology/spirituality, and popular culture plays in the reception and attitude toward social robots is considered. Finally, in light of the profound reconfigurations of the boundaries between human beings and their machines, I propose a set of conceptual strategies from which we may better critique and respond to emerging social robots.

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