New Scientific Study Claims Robots Are More Likable When They Make Mistakes

Tuesday, 15 August 2017 - 7:23PM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Robotics
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 - 7:23PM
New Scientific Study Claims Robots Are More Likable When They Make Mistakes
Image credit: SoftBank Robotics
These days, there seems to be a robot suited for just about every task. From writing songs to creating artwork, working as lawyers, and identifying cancer, there seems to be nothing that robots and artificial intelligences (AI) can't do. That is, however, with the exception of being likable. We have yet to create a robot that's truly charismatic and likable. But even this is soon to change.

C-3PO is light-years more likable than J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark's digital assistant. And this difference in human connection and interaction boils down to one simple trait: imperfection. Robots seem to be created with the aim of perfection—like the creepily calm HAL 3000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, when C-3PO fumbles around and drops things or anxiously scurries for cover, he instantly becomes more relatable, whether we consciously realize it or not. 




To test whether or not imperfections like clumsiness or mistake-making does, in fact, make robots more likable, researchers created a small, humanoid robot that would intentionally make mistakes. They set the machine into action and recorded people's' reactions to the little robot, as well as a different robot that didn't make mistakes. As they had initially suspected, people tended to like the mistake-making bot more, perhaps feeling some humanity from its imperfections. But what does this mean for the future of robots?

It is absolutely helpful to know what makes
robots seem more human and what emotionally ties us to them. However, in a practical sense, mistake-making robots could create a lot of dangers. Robots that are used in the medical field, self-driving cars and so many more could be life-threatening if they made mistakes. But even beyond this, as we continue to humanize robots, where do we draw the line? Imperfection and mistake-making are traits that we instantly associate with humankind. Will there come a time where robots and humans are indistinguishable from each other? As science and science fiction seem to merge, it is important to continue progressing and innovating while, at the same time, remaining skeptical of humans getting just a little too close to our robot partners.

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