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A supernaturally human-like robot that was programmed to socially interact with human companions tricked people into thinking the mindless machine was self-aware, according to a new study.
The digital trickster, dubbed “iCub” by the researchers, is a child-sized humanoid robot created by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa to study social interactions between humans and robots. This advanced android is 1.1 meters tall and has a human face, camera eyes that can maintain eye contact with people, and 53 degrees of freedom that allow it to perform complex tasks and mimic human behavior. Researchers can program the iCub to behave remarkably human, as evidenced by its appearance in 2016 on Italy has talent (will open in a new tab) when the robot performed tai chi moves and impressed the judges with its smart conversational skills.
In the new study, scientists programmed the iCub to interact with human participants while watching a series of short videos. During some experiments, the iCub was programmed to behave in a human way: to greet the participants when they enter the room, and to respond to the video with shouts of joy, surprise and awe. But in other trials, the robot’s programming instructed it to behave like a machine, ignoring nearby humans and emitting stereotypically robotic beeps.
The researchers found that people exposed to the more human-like version of the iCub were more likely to view it from a perspective known as “intentional stance.” exposed to a less human version of the robot. The researchers expected this to happen but were “very surprised” at how well it worked, said study lead author Serena Marchesi and study co-author Agnieszka Wykowska, both from IIT’s department of social cognition in human-robot interaction. Living science in a collaborative email.
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The researchers said that the iCub robot has a limited ability to “learn” like a neural network (a type of artificial intelligence or AI that mimics the processes of the human brain), but it is far from self-aware.
In each of the experiments, one human participant sat in a room with an iCub and watched three short two-minute video clips of animals. The research team chose to use video viewing as a common task because it is a common activity for friends and family, and they used footage of animals and “did not include a human or robot” to avoid any bias. the researchers said.
In the first series of experiments, the iCub was programmed to greet human participants, introduce themselves, and ask for their names upon entry. During these interactions, iCub also moved its camera’s “eyes” to maintain eye contact with human objects. While watching the video, he continued to behave like a human, responding with vocals, just like people do. “He laughed when there was a funny scene in the movie, or acted like he was in awe of a beautiful visual scene,” the researchers say.
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In the second series of experiments, iCub did not interact with the participants, and while watching the video, its only reaction to the scenes was to make machine sounds, including “beeping like a car sensor when approaching an obstacle.” the researchers said. During these experiments, the cameras in the iCub’s eyes were also turned off, so the robot could not maintain eye contact.
Deliberate vs Mechanistic
Before and after the experiments, the researchers had the participants take the InStance Test (IST). This survey, developed by a research team in 2019, is used to gauge people’s opinions about a robot’s mental state.
Using the IST, the study authors assessed participants’ responses to 34 different scenarios. “Each scenario consists of a series of three images depicting the robot in daily activities,” the researchers said. “Participants then choose one of two sentences that describe the scenario.” One sentence used intentional language that hinted at an emotional state (for example: “iCub wants”), and another sentence used mechanistic language that focused on actions (“iCub does”). In one scenario, when participants were shown a series of images of iCub selecting one of several tools on a table, they chose between statements that said the robot “grabbed the nearest object” (mechanically) or “became fascinated by using the tool” (intentionally) . .
The team found that if participants were exposed to the iCub’s human behavior during the experiments, they were more likely to switch from a mechanistic to a deliberate stance in their survey responses, hinting that the iCub’s human behavior had changed their perception. robot. In comparison, participants who interacted with the more robotic version of the iCub held strongly to the mechanistic stance in the second survey. This suggests that humans need to see evidence of a robot’s relative behavior in order to perceive it as human, the researchers say.
These results show that humans can form social bonds with robots. This could have implications for the use of robots in healthcare, especially for older patients, the researchers said. However, the scientists cautioned that there is still much to be learned about human-robot interaction and social bonding.
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One important question the team wants to answer is whether humans can bond with robots that don’t look human but still exhibit human behavior. “It is difficult to foresee how a robot with a less human-like appearance will elicit the same level of experience as mine,” the researchers say. In the future, they hope to repeat the study’s experiments with robots of different shapes and sizes, they added.
The researchers also argue that in order for humans to form strong social bonds with robots, humans must abandon preconceived notions of sentient machines that are popular science fiction fear-mongering fodder.
“People have a tendency to be afraid of the unknown,” the researchers say. “But robots are just machines, and far less capable than their fictional depictions in popular culture.” To help people overcome this bias, scientists can better inform the public about what robots can and can’t do. After that, “cars will immediately become less scary,” they said.
The study was published online on July 7 in the journal Technology, mind and behavior (will open in a new tab).
Originally published on Live Science.
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