A talk by Dr Christoph Bartneck of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLABNZ) in Christchurch, held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.  It was well attended by people interested in technology, their kids, and a toy robot supplied by Dr Bartneck.

The robot was fascinating to the children.  It was programmed to understand Japanese and could converse.  I don’t think that conversation has reached a Turing Test stage.  It would be interesting to see.  Dr Bartneck admitted that conversation would be a goal that he would like to see.  The robot had the advantage over the kids that its talk function could be dialled down.

So where are robots at?  They still have to get the understanding of social space.  When is standing next to you too close and socially alarming.  Robots still have to be programmed for that receptivity.  Advances in tactile senses also have to be made.

Anthropomorphism: the idea of perfectly human robots disturb us.  It crosses over into uncanny territory, like the unnatural behaviour of mannequins.  We cannot not communicate and need the signals that assure us of humanity.

We like our robots to be toy-like.  They are unthreatening.  Perhaps we would be less disturbed by toy robot in the room than accidently leaving Skype running (and watching us).

The last image was of toy robots with glowing pink eyes performing the haka.  Keep practicing, guys!