Robots Will Look You in the Eyes to Steal Your Power

PHILADELPHIA (August 16-19, 2006) - Researchers from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), including Hiroshi Ishiguro, are presenting a paper at the 2006 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference at the University of Pennsylvania this week. The paper (abstract, full text) details some experiments they ran to measure the "feeling of being looked at" by a robot. Using one of their off the shelf bots outfitted with the creepiest eyes they could find, they ran 4 programs through the bot. The first program followed the subjects eyes responsively, the second avoided eye contact, but looked at the subject when they weren't looking back, the third followed the subject with a cold blank gaze, and the third, dubbed shifty-Yvette, looked at random locations about the room.

The result? Their responsive program elicited the maximum "feeling of being looked at". This is kind of surprising considering the chilling affect of having dead robot eyes stare in your general direction.

Well at least now when I'm bludgeoned from behind with a pipe wrench, and with my last gasps of consciousness turn to see my attacker, I'll be assured that the plumber-bot that just turned on me will take me out knowing I felt well ... looked at.

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