Welcome to the brave new world in which humanoid robots—exciting, thrilling, frightening to some, strange to others, controversial, lifesaving—will change our lives in countless ways. Max Aguilera-Hellweg explores the turning point in the evolution of robot science, where robots are becoming more like humans, crossing the great divide between data processing and sentience.
I could just snap a picture and leave. But it’s not that easy. Humanoids, androids— they make them look like humans. Why make a robot with a head and eyes? Certainly there are robots that don’t have a head or a pair of eyes, robots that could be made or that already exist that are safe for humans to be around, that have the ability to perform various jobs, that are probably cheaper to build, and that may be even better at doing whatever we’d want or need a robot to do. But scientists have found it’s the eye contact that matters: just as important as eye contact is between humans, it is the glue that makes human-robot social interaction work.
You walk into a room, you see a humanoid there, you suspend disbelief—you don’t even realize it, but it happens. All of a sudden it has a gender: CB2 is a he, Bina48 is a she, and Valkyrie is a girl; they call her Val for short. You start talking to the robot, or she or he starts talking to you; you’re talking to a machine and it’s talking back to you. Having a robot with a head and eyes, speaking to each other as we do human to human, as opposed to performing complex data entry on a keypad or switching one terminal on, one terminal off, operating a series of switches you’d have to turn on or off to perform a single task, speaking to a robot is ideal. There is no higher means of achieving complex communication with ease and speed than human to human-like communication. Why humanoids, why androids? Robots with heads and eyes allow for more than just speech; nonverbal communication is made possible, when the eyes say one thing and words another, or when the two agree. Nonverbal communication—conscious or unconscious, gestures and signals, the mediation of personal space is just as important and essential as trust is between any two individuals, whether they be human and human, or human and machine.
These photographs were taken in the United States and Japan over a six year period at some of the world's leading research facilities in robot enginerring and laboratrires studying human robot interacton. Robots (artificial intelligence) are already amonst us in ways that we may not even imagined just a few years ago (Siri), and they will become increasingly more apart of our daily lives. These photographs, these robots, represent a catalouge of how science and scientitst has been thinking of this integration, viewing them is a journey into a future that is already upon us, the Darwinian/evolutionary curve of Android, Human, and Human Robot Interaction. The world has changed and will never be the same. They ask the question, what does it mean to be human. Be not afraid.