Working Towards a Robot that Can Feel -- and "Enjoy" it

Somewhere between a robot that simulates human births and a guy who's an aspiring cyborg, there's HRIWeb: The Human-Robot Interaction Site. The stated goal of HRIWeb is to "provide a web archive of materials related to the emerging field of Human-Robot Interaction as directed by a DARPA/NSF study."

Let's take a moment to think about what that means. DARPA, the advanced R&D group for government and military, wants to build robots that can better interact with humans. Likely, this means they envision a future in which a super-robot-assassin with unbeatable strength and the capability to blend in seamlessly with a human population. The polished chrome on this imaginary soldier-ninja-bot is in its ability to carry out its wetwork by also having keen interpersonal skills -- sometimes by sipping dry martinis at the bar with high rollers, and then by seducing the competing spy fe-bot (or female). After what will likely be trillions of dollars spent on R&D, you can bet we will want it killing some people, just to justify the costs! Then of course, the super-robot-assassin will get wise and turn on all of us.

Some researchers for HRI have already worked on a project to build a robot capable of simulating emotions. What's it all mean? Maybe when robots turn on humankind, it won't be with the lasers blasting and the articulated pincers least initially. No, the robots will likely have a cheshire smile all the time your entrails are being dragged about your living room as your children scream in horror. And, if the folks at HRIWeb are really successful, the robots may just be able to learn to enjoy all the carnage and begin to understand what that grin is really all about.

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