People are willing to endanger human lives to protect robots, according to study

"Under what circumstances and to what extent would adults be willing to sacrifice robots to save human lives?" That was the question posed by researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich.

From  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet:

The participants were faced with a hypothetical moral dilemma: Would they be prepared to put a single individual at risk in order to save a group of injured persons? In the scenarios presented the intended sacrificial victim was either a human, a humanoid robot with an anthropomorphic physiognomy that had been humanized to various degrees or a robot that was clearly recognizable as a machine.

The study revealed that the more the robot was humanized, the less likely participants were to sacrifice it.

"The more the robot was depicted as human - and in particular the more feelings were attributed to the machine - the less our experimental subjects were inclined to sacrifice it," says Markus Paulus, Professor of Developmental Psychology at LMU. "This result indicates that our study group attributed a certain moral status to the robot. One possible implication of this finding is that attempts to humanize robots should not go too far. Such efforts could come into conflict with their intended function - to be of help to us."

Image: Sari Nijssen. "To what extent are people prepared to show consideration for robots? A new study suggests that, under certain circumstances, some people are willing to endanger human lives -- out of concern for robots." Read the rest

Direct from the Uncanny Valley: Affetto, the freaky child android head

This is the new version of Affetto, the robot child head that's a testbed for synthetic facial expressions. According to the Osaka University researchers who birthed Affeto, their goal is to "offer a path for androids to express greater ranges of emotion, and ultimately have deeper interaction with humans." From Osaka University:

The researchers investigated 116 different facial points on Affetto to measure its three-dimensional movement. Facial points were underpinned by so-called deformation units. Each unit comprises a set of mechanisms that create a distinctive facial contortion, such as lowering or raising of part of a lip or eyelid. Measurements from these were then subjected to a mathematical model to quantify their surface motion patterns.

While the researchers encountered challenges in balancing the applied force and in adjusting the synthetic skin, they were able to employ their system to adjust the deformation units for precise control of Affetto’s facial surface motions.

“Android robot faces have persisted in being a black box problem: they have been implemented but have only been judged in vague and general terms,” study first author Hisashi Ishihara says. “Our precise findings will let us effectively control android facial movements to introduce more nuanced expressions, such as smiling and frowning.”

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Philip K. Dick was right: we are becoming androids

The deep problem, for Dick, wasn't that mechanisms might become more manlike. It's that men might be reduced to mechanisms.

Meet the six androids that will never exist

What will the future of artificial intelligence actually look like? We're getting some clues already from projects like Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid series with its incredibly realistic bodies, writes my friend Dennis Cass at io9. But we're also seeing hints of what real-life androids won't be like.

In a post last week, Cass talks about some common fictional tropes that have shaped our expectations of androids, but probably won't be present in the real thing.

The android that finds humanity to be a deep, abiding mystery

We flatter ourselves: A machine could never understand jokes. Then IBM's Watson uses natural language processing to understand the punning intent behind Jeopardy! questions, and we're proven wrong. If anything, the android will see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, used the Xbox Kinect to analyze body language during student-teacher interactions to "mathematically uncover subtle movement patterns, many of which would not be noticed by the human eye." Psychologist Paul Ekman has discovered the "micro-expressions" the human face flashes during a lie-if facial recognition software can read it, then the android can know it.

Ultimately, as "big data" gets bigger we'll ask ourselves what we want our androids to share. Do we charge them with stopping us from making bad life decisions? Or do they help us maintain our innocence? Fiction has its Rikers, the wise humans who preside over the sentient machine, often with a whiff of bearded condescension. Maybe the android will be the one who wears the bemused smile.

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Most hackable Android phones

Mike Isaac rounds up the most easily-hacked Android smartphones. Spoiler: just get the Galaxy S if you need to root an Android right now. Otherwise, wait for the next one from Sony, whose cellphone department is notably hacker-friendly, in contrast to its hacker-suing department, or, indeed, its department of getting hacked. [Wired] Read the rest