The Phaserl


What Could Go Wrong? Crime Fighting Robots Now Equipped with Self-Defense Instincts

by Claire Bernish, Activist Post:

Once thought to be too approachable for their own good — as in, able to efficaciously perform the tasks they’ve been designed to do — robots are now being programmed with self-defense capabilities.

Now, robots which, say, patrol for criminal or suspicious activity come with a blend of humanoid characteristics and self-defense programs which prevent them from being perceived as too cute — or too menacing.

“Because of all the doomsday scenarios people imagine with robots, their makers have to insert some cuteness,” explained Golden Krishna, a designer with Alphabet’s Google, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“When humans see a robot that doesn’t have eyes,” said Rodolphe Gelin, SoftBank Group Corp. robotics unit chief scientific officer, “they think it doesn’t care about them.”

That perception — however Orwellian it might sound — can be detrimental to a robot’s ability to function on the job in the presence of humans.

After several failed design attempts to find the appropriate balance between relatable and threatening — and a number of incidents in which robots faced ‘abuse’ or ‘assault’ by humans — newer robots employ self-defense capabilities.

One incident of, well, ‘roboticide’ occurred with the failed experiment of HitchBOT. This cylindrical robot with an LED smile was dropped off on the roadside to see how if robots could “depend on people” — but the experiment came to an abrupt halt when HitchBOT “was found decapitated in Philadelphia last summer,” the WSJ noted.

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