Here’s more evidence that inanimate objects can spark human emotions… In Japan, testing of a robot baby called “Babyloid” has been completed and commercial production is set to begin. The purpose of the baby-bots is to engage the emotions of senior citizens, and in particular those with depression who would most benefit from “human” interaction:
The robot is a natural extension of baby doll therapy, encouraging the patient to take on an active care-giving role… The robot was developed by Kanou Masayoshi, Associate Professor at Chukyo University of Science and Technology… Essentially the robot can simulate a bad mood (such as hunger or crying) and will then settle down. [From Plastic Pals.]
A review of Masayoshi’s website shows he’e been involved in some other interesting projects, including this robot receptionist that can mimic different human expressions to convey emotion:
The theme in Masayoshi’s work seems to be that by adding even rudimentary expression changes to his devices he can make them seem more human. (Not to mention somewhat unsettling for us non-roboticists.)
While most marketers aren’t ready to deploy sales bots or customer service bots, eventually it will happen. And, properly designed bots will likely mimic human expressions and behavior to make them emotionally acceptable to their human contacts.
But that doesn’t mean emotional machine interactions are far in the future, they are here today. A humanoid appearance isn’t necessary for people to emotionally engage with machines – see Computers As People: Happy Customers and Automation. If your interface acts human and interacts in the right way, people WILL engage emotionally and have a positive experience.