It’s a familiar scenario: an armless robot with a gun.
But this time, a robot with an eye on you could be the cause of a mass shooting.
How about a robot that could take your life?
Robots are coming.
With more and more devices and software that can mimic human behaviour, they could soon be used to make robots act more like people.
The question is, will it be good for us?
This is the second of a two-part series looking at the state of robotics, how it’s evolving, and what it might mean for us.
Robot in a bathtub A robot that can look like a human would be a big step.
But it would have to do things differently.
A robot with eyes would have trouble spotting a human’s eyes, and a robot without eyes would struggle to see them.
This is because the eye is so sensitive to light that even a robot in a dark room would be able to detect light, says Daniel Sussman, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the Human-Robot Interaction Lab.
The eye has an extremely small area to move around, so there’s no way for the robot to move in an enclosed space like a bath tub.
And a robot doesn’t have to move when you push it, which makes it much easier to kill.
“Robots with eyes have the most to lose from this, because you can’t make the robot move to kill the human,” says Sussmann.
The problem with this scenario is that robots that look like humans might also be able, if they have the right software, to get a sense of your body and see you, which could lead to a more lethal encounter.
And even if robots don’t have eyes, they still could detect an object and try to shoot it, Sussbaum says.
So what can we do to prevent this from happening?
If you’re not afraid of robots, you probably shouldn’t be using them, says Satchidhar Subramanian, a lecturer in robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge.
Instead, make your robot look human by using a prosthetic eye or other device.
You could also avoid getting a robot into a bath with you if you know you don’t want to get into a physical confrontation, says Subramaniam.
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