Thursday, 2 February 2012

Would you like a kiss via a robotic messenger?

Recently, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) published an article: Would you kiss someone via robot messenger? Using touch sensitive artificial lips (a robot), called kiss messenger or Kissenger, the little cartoonish robots allow users separated by distance to engage in intimate touch (kisses) - perhaps to augment Skype or Messenger interactions.

The technology was developed by Lovotics and AI researcher Hooman Samani (I attended a conference with him a few years ago in the Netherlands).  Lovotics research interests seem to be in pushing the boundaries of human-to-robot interactions.

According to the Lovotics website, Kissenger enables three modes of interaction:

1. Human to Human tele-kiss through the device: bridges the physical gap between two intimately connected individuals. Kissenger plays the mediating role in the kiss interaction by imitating and recreating the lip movement of both users in real time using two digitally connected artificial lips.

2. Human to Robot kiss: enabling an intimate relationship with a robot, such technology provides a new facility for closer and more realistic interactions between humans and robots. In this scenario, one set of artificial lips is integrated in a humanoid robot.

3. Human to Virtual character physical/virtual kiss: provides a link between the virtual and real worlds. Here, humans can kiss virtual characters while playing games and receive physical kisses from their favorite virtual characters. Further, Kissenger can be integrated into modern communication devices to facilitate the interactive communication between natural and technologically mediated environments and enhance human tele-presence.

CBC has asked readers to vote (no, it's not scientific) on whether or not readers might accept a kiss from Kissenger? When I checked the informal poll this morning, 13% (222 voters) of respondents said that yes, they would kiss a loved one or virtual character via Kissenger :). However, 75% (1291 voters) are not tempted whatsoever.
As a researcher of social robots and culture, I probably would. Would you?

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