“Emotional Machines: Is society ready for robot companions?”

A very interesting event called “Emotional Machines: Is society ready for robot companions?” took place on July 2nd 2013 in London at NESTA, an independent charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. The event was one of a series leading up to Nesta’s FutureFest, a weekend of events challenging us to imagine and shape what is to come.

The panel was chaired by Professor Brownsword, Professor of Law at King’s College London and the former founding director of TELOS – a research centre that focusses on technology, ethics, law and society. Expert speakers included Gawain Morrison (co-founder and Company Director of Sensum),  Kerstin Dautenhahn (full Professor in the School of Computer Science at University of Hertfordshire, specialising in human-robot interactions), Ginevra Castellano (Senior Researcher at the Human-Computer Interaction Centre, University of Birmingham) and Brendan Walker (Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and recently appointed Professor of Creative Industries at the University of Middlesex).

From the NESTA website:

In today’s world, our relationships with technology are becoming increasingly complex. It is no longer a case of smart items giving a responsive to one specific action – robots are learning how to interpret our facial expressions, read our body language and even react to our physiological responses – some of which are so small that we cannot detect them ourselves.

There is a whole world of exciting applications for these technologies: help with mindfulness meditation, conveying a feeling of connection to a partner while they’re away, changing the ambience of a film to suit our current mood and even teaching children with autism spectrum disorders, who can struggle with conventional therapy.

However, despite great efforts and investments, emotive humanoid robot companions remain deeply uncanny, and elderly patients in Japan have rejected robotic care despite a critical shortage of human nurses. Ethically speaking, there are more complications – is it acceptable to allow elderly people to believe that the seal pup they so enjoy petting is real, when it is actually made of nuts and bolts covered in synthetic fur?

Employers are monitoring their workers’ concentration and robot teachers can track and adapt to students’ engagement with lessons. As emotional technologies pervade our belongings,buildings and infrastructure, how will our relationships with them evolve? And how should we be preparing to regulate these increasingly complicated and remarkable machines?

Our specialist panel was chaired by Professor Brownsword, Professor of Law at King’s College London and the former founding director of TELOS – a research centre that focusses on technology, ethics, law and society. Expert speakers included Gawain Morrison (co-founder and Company Director of Sensum),  Kerstin Dautenhahn (full Professor in the School of Computer Science at University of Hertfordshire, specialising in human-robot interactions), Ginevra Castellano (Senior Researcher at the Human-Computer Interaction Centre, University of Birmingham) and Brendan Walker (Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and recently appointed Professor of Creative Industries at the University of Middlesex).

Here is the Emotional Machines Infographic

Hot Topics Emotional Machines infographic [original]

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  • FET project

  • EC funded

  • Under FP7

  • Project details

    Project number: 258749
    Call (part) identifier: FP7-ICT-2009-5
    Project Start Date: 1st September 2010
    Project Duration: 48 month

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