Toddlers and Robots

Turing’s Toddlers: As far as I know, no computer has ever consistently fooled an adult human into thinking it is sentient. But it apparently the case that toddlers can be tricked into accepting a small, cute machine as a fellow toddler:

Computers might not be clever enough to trick adults into thinking they are intelligent yet, but a new study shows that a giggling robot is sophisticated enough to get toddlers to treat it as a peer.

An experiment led by Javier Movellan at the University of California San Diego, US, is the first long-term study of interaction between toddlers and robots.

The researchers stationed a 2-foot-tall robot called QRIO (pronounced “curio”), and developed by Sony, in a classroom of a dozen toddlers aged between 18 months and two years.

QRIO stayed in the middle of the room using its sensors to avoid bumping the kids or the walls. It was initially programmed to giggle when the kids touched its head, to occasionally sit down, and to lie down when its batteries died. A human operator could also make the robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away. “We expected that after a few hours, the magic was going to fade,” Movellan says. “That’s what has been found with earlier robots.” But, in fact, the kids warmed to the robot over several weeks, eventually interacting with QRIO in much the same way they did with other toddlers.

[source]

Here’s a video showing the robots and toddlers in action:

Comments

  1. #1 Nathaniel
    November 7, 2007

    Seems to me like they’re treating the robot no differently than a doll. I’ve seen kids talking to stuffed toys, laying them down to sleep, having tea parties with them… that does that mean that this robot did anything special in getting the children to “imagine” that it was another toddler. Now, if the robot where as smart as a toddler and could interact properly, behaving less like a doll… then the kids might actually think of it as another student.

  2. #2 greg laden
    November 7, 2007

    Hopefully, if the robot did that, the toddlers would quietly take it out into the back alley and stomp it to death.

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