Friday, September 25, 2015

Cute or creepy, this robot helped researchers figure out why babies smile

Whether you think it's creepy or cute, there is no denying that Diego-san, a toddler-like robot developed at the Qualcomm Institute here at UC San Diego, became a media darling this past week. The robot was part of a study where researchers tried to figure out why babies smile.
They programmed Diego-san to behave like the babies they studied and had him interact with undergraduate students. The study is part of an effort funded by the National Science Foundation to use robots to better understand human development. It gives developmental psychologists a tool for studying non-verbal children and adults, such as those with autism.
But for a lot of media outlets, it was all about the robot. IEEE Spectrum generously described Diego-san as "slightly uncanny." Other outlets were less charitable. Engadget,   the San Diego Union-Tribune and New York Magazine found the robot creepy. Motherboard was probably the most aggravated and called Diego-san horrifying.
Below is a video of the robot in action so you can make up your mind for yourself.
The full press release about the study is here.
Javier Movellan, one of the study's co-authors, will present related work on Oct. 30 at the Contextual Robotics Forum here at the Jacobs School.

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