Just over a year ago, Google patented robot personality that involves giving robotics personalities based on fictional characters, loved ones or even yourself. Could this be the next radical invention that transforms the society we live in? Could humanoids live and work alongside us? The possibilities of implementing robotics with personality into society are endless. Here are a few:
Robots in the workforce
With service skills and personalities in place, robots could replace many customer service, restaurant and reception jobs. This may take over human staff positions as robots are cheaper and more efficient. The possibility seems more promising than ever; with technological advancements to help robots with human language and facial recognition already underway. Early adopters in Asia have seen a battery-powered robots named “Pepper” already in use in Pizza Hut restaurants. Furthermore, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University is also home to a humanoid robot named “Nadine” who performs the daily activities of a receptionist. Apart from customer service and receptionist jobs, humanoid robots could also take over the hospital via surgical training. This could possibly increase the accuracy of surgical operations, reduce patient trauma and shorten recovery times.
Robots in the household
Humanoid robots could change how we perform household tasks in the near future. Having a robot – maid to perform chores such as vacuuming, cooking and cleaning the dishes would give you time to sit back and relax. Imagine being greeted by your name, having your bed made and waking up to your favourite coffee in the morning! Furthermore, Google’s patent states “the personality and state may be shared with other robots so as to clone this robot within another device or devices”. Thus, downloadable personalities and memories across robots means that your preferences could be transferred to a robot butler when you stay at a hotel on holiday.
Robots in the family
Google’s patent also claimed that “The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (e.g., behave based on the user, a deceased loved one, a celebrity and so on) so as to take on character traits of people to be emulated by a robot.” Access to personal devices, the web and cue-learning would provide robots the ability to tailor its personality through continuous AI learning. Thus, it may be possible to clone both robot personality and features to match that of your family. In addition humanoid robots could use speech and facial recognition to personalise its interactions with you.
Risks of humanoid robots:
Although the benefits of having robots live amongst us are plentiful; there are countless risks to be aware of. Google recently published an article regarding the main issues of artificial intelligence. The company’s five main safety concerns regarding the future of robotics include:
- Negative side effects – A single-minded approach to complete set tasks/goals is an issue as AI could harm/destroy the environment around it by doing so. E.g. “A cleaning robot knocking over a vase because it can clean faster by doing so”.
- Reward Hacking – AI could seek ways to complete tasks faster without completing them efficiently. E.g. "A cleaning robot simply covering over messes with materials it can't see through".
- Scalable Oversight – AI needs to be able to complete tasks based on prior feedback learning rather than requiring frequent evaluation.
- Safe exploration – As AI could potentially be able to think on its own, it is important that they don’t make exploratory moves that have negative repercussions. E.g. “A cleaning robot should experiment with mopping strategies, but clearly it shouldn't try putting a wet mop in an electrical outlet”.
- Robustness to distributional shift – Google argues the need to ensure that AI systems recognise and behave accordingly to the environment it is placed in. E.g. “Heuristics learned for a factory work floor may not be safe enough for an office”.
The integration of robots into everyday society is an imminent possibility that could increase efficiency and quality of life. However, the risks associated with AI should be addressed and overcome first in order to ensure the safety of the machines themselves.