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  • anielambednarek

Is AI a social animal ?

Dernière mise à jour : 22 avr. 2022

Robots could perfectly be considered as ‘animals’ like human beings - who Aristotle defines as the most political animals (Zoon Politkon) - or other animals. Though robots are currently just machines, some engineers hope that robots will one day become social animals. When it comes to interaction with humans, the general trend is to create androids (or even more gynoids) supposed to imitate human behaviors, but some roboticists came up with the idea of taking 'social robotics' a step further by creating a zoomorphic robot. Such robots, they argue, will never bore humans, thanks to their renewed interaction capabilities.

This is precisely the project of the company Spoon and its founder, Jérôme Monceau, a French expert in social robotics. This interdisciplinary startup, which brings together engineers and philosophers, has the task of designing artificial creatures by trying to go beyond the traditional vision of robots as articulated gadgets. While social robotics classically covers three major issues: mobility, manipulation and interaction, the ambitious startup has chosen to focus exclusively on interaction. The problem with androids is that the first encounter is as intense as it is ephemeral: human-like robots fascinate or intrigue human beings, but the latter quickly tire of them, disappointed by the limits of the interaction.

The physical appearance of the robot is essential to the quality of the interaction because by anthropomorphizing it, one creates an expectation and a frustration: humans will naturally want the android to behave like a real human. And that's where the problem lies. The choice of a zoomorphic robot (with a deliberately non-human appearance) has several advantages: it puts an end to the disappointments caused by interactions between humans and humanoid robots; it attenuates the saccadic gestures of traditional robots by giving, for example, a certain fluidity of movement. Above all, this new method opens the way to creativity by allowing designers to endow their creature with original features.

The robot can be an unidentified species (sui generis) or be inspired by several animals, the most important thing is to give it a natural and friendly appearance. For this, the work on the face, and especially on the eyes is decisive because the look gives access to the interaction. Everything (or almost everything) goes through the eyes: we show our attention, our curiosity but also our shyness or our indifference through the eyes. All this the robot can simulate. It should be noted that if Spoon intends to promote a non-humanoid robot, the startup claims to place ethics at the heart of its project and serve humans. There is no question of scaring people with giant quadruped or spider-like robots.

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