Science Explains: Why do we keep making robots that look like people?

Science Explains: Why do we keep making robots that look like people?

There are thousands of science fiction stories
about robots who are “more human than human.” But what is it that drives us to make machines
that look like us? It certainly isn’t easy. One of the hardest parts is giving humanoid
robots something that we humans take for granted, our ability to walk on two legs. Robots with four legs are more stable, because more legs means more points of contact with the ground, and less engineering is needed to
make a workable robot. But two legs provide a sense of familiarity
that helps humans empathise with the machines. Teaching robots to walk used to
involve a lot of trial and error. Robots like ASIMO took several years of research
and engineering to stand and walk around. With the advent of machine learning, freestanding
robots are learning to take their first steps by training on thousands of hours of simulations, even before they have legs. So we can get them to stand up. But why on Earth do we need upright humanoid robots? What can they do that other robots can’t? It turns out, a whole lot. Researchers at the University of Tokyo are
trying to build a complete human analogue, with a metal skeleton and hydraulic muscles. Their current models, Kenshiro and Kengoro, can perform many of the same movements as humans, including push-ups and sit-ups. Aside from making great bodybuilding coaches,
the researchers say they give us insight, into the intricacies of human physiology. But there are some downsides. One of those is psychological: When robots start looking too “real,” they unsettle us, causing us to trust them less. That hasn’t stopped scientists from tackling
the daunting task to make robots look and act more human. In 2004, European researchers began work on
the iCub, a robot designed to mimic a child. iCub is the hardware that houses the artificial
intelligence software that powers it. The robot can observe its environment through
camera eyes and microphone ears, touch sensors in the hands, and a “skin” made of printed
circuit capacitors. The motivation for creating iCub is to give
AI not only a voice, but also a body. iCub has been trained to observe and respond
to its surroundings. By watching humans, the robot has learned
to grasp and manipulate objects. Some of the project researchers have even
taught it to identify the objects it picks up. But one of iCubs most valuable lessons for
the field of robotics is in sociability. Researchers are training the robot to maintain
eye contact with humans, determine their emotions through facial expressions and gestures, and respond to nonverbal communication in order to complete tasks. This kind of research could mark the beginning
of a new era in human-robot interactions. But what about those science fiction dreams? One day, we’ll ask the robots what they think.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Abandon mechatronics.
    3d print a skeleton.
    Attach voltage operated carbon nanotube muscles.
    Add haptics, lidar, Doppler radar, and other exotic sensory organs.

    And then allow deep neural networks to learn how to walk.

  2. Robots looking more or less like humans, IE Humanoids, thus appealing to emotions, is probably just a immature faze on the pathway to more advanced and useful robots with AI.

  3. Why do we need to empathize with a robot? It's a machine. I don't catch feelings for my washing machine.

  4. when we try to make a human as machine like as possible, it's called repression and brainwashing and is frowned upon, why do we think making a machine as human like as possible will be any more beneficial? Can't we just make machines that are really good at their tasks and nothing like a human? Cube shaped maybe? Removes the creepiness factor and andriod existential crisis while still maintaining functionality and harmony between man and machine.

    Why do we set a goal what would cause disharmony and strife? If we keep on this path, we are going to have a blade runner situation on our hands. Are we foolish enough to want that?

  5. Can you build a robot with only maths and caculas? (I think its the same thing but complicated) please answer ASAP

  6. Why do they make robots look human? If a robot looked like a cute 4 legged creature I'd think "metal puppy!" And would gladly let it take over the planet.

  7. I can't help but think about what will happen to half of the population when AI can do human jobs better than humans themselves? AI doesn't need to be perfect, it only has to be better than humans, and then, they'll replace us. What happened to the horses when the cars were invented? A look into our past can tell us a lot about our future. I wish I could still be alive when that time comes, but I'm poor, so I highly doubt I'll be able to extend my life expectancy when it's available.

  8. so the answer to the question, which happened to be the title of the video is, "Let's ask the robots what they think!"?! hahaha

  9. I have and probably will always love robots and AI. It's also so crazy because if you think about it, if the AI doesnt go rogue if it becomes sentient, then humans will have created a new sentient species. Very wack and I love it.

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