For some time, scientists and designers have been working on intelligent machines to interact with people on a more ‘human’ level. Honda is teaching her robot ASIMO more and more to be human-like (last development: ASIMO can serve you drinks or help you cross the street). In The Netherlands, Philips is working on the iCat, an interactive robotic cat that is able to react to speach and emotions.
Time magazine has selected the iCat as one of the “Coolest Inventions of 2005”. Animated facial expressions by means of a mechanical robotic head was considered new in the research area of human-robot interaction.
The iCat can be connected to phone, lighting, alarm, etc. Although still in an early test phase, researchers and professionals who take care of elderly people believe the iCat will mean an important social support for people. The iCat is a funny character, with many different faces and it can help you programm your DVD player! What more could any old and gray grandpa (early test results show that the iCat mainly appeals to men) ask for?!
Be it an unimaginable thought, I believe that interactive robots like the iCat (after years of changes and development) will become a key factor in creating stronger bands between people. Yes, I said stronger and yes, I said people. Just like computers and MSN create bands between youngsters, these intelligent robots will be able to do the same for older and eventually all people.
We are taking very important steps in desiging technology with people in mind, instead of tasks. How does the iCat make people feel was therefore one of the most important questions in the first tests.
How will it make us feel in the future? Who knows… perhaps when we are old and grey we might have an idea.
Also see: iCat research community
What I didn’t want to keep from you was the weird association I had with the talking robotic alarm clock ‘Robin’, of the very famous duo(at least in The Netherlands) ‘Bassie & Adriaan’, the clown and acrobat (note: for children).