back to article New science: Pathetic humans can't bring themselves to fire lovable klutz-bots

A university study has found that adding basic facial expressions to a robot can be enough to forge an emotional bond with humans. Researchers with University College London and University of Bristol in the UK found that when humans were paired with a robot that displayed facial expressions of remorse, the fleshy overlord was …

  1. gerdesj Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    RLY?

    So they've discovered that anthropomorposisisisisising things is a thing. Cool.

    OK, this is a not so subtle spin on anthr...thingie rather than being direct but it's really the same thing. Make a robot fallible in an organic way and it appears more fleshy somehow and hence people are more likely to prefer to associate with it. Add some painted on eyebrows and job's a good'un. I'm not going to try and glue a few Greek words together to try and describe the effect but I'm sure someone could.

    Can I have a grant please to provide more evidence of something that nearly everyone knows already?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RLY?

      > Can I have a grant please to provide more evidence of something that nearly everyone knows already?

      You mean e.g. "The ones that buzz will escape such scrutiny"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Basically, if you're a cheery but ultimately useless drone, you're hired.

    Standard civil service hiring policy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That didn't work for Clippy.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Because Clippy wasn't cheery, it was effin' annoying.

        And patronizing as well.

        What I take from this article is that if you behave nice and communicate with enthusiasm, you'll have an easier time getting your mistakes forgiven.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I prefer my robots rude and competent.

          1. Ru'
            Trollface

            "I prefer my robots rude and competent."

            Cyberdildonics?

    2. Disk0
      Thumb Up

      I thought the criteria for the government as well as corporations were that you have to be a soulless drone who hates everything that lives...those robots might actually be an improvement!

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Possibilities

    I'd like to see a video of a kitchen robot with a Gordon Ramsay personality/vocabulary assisting a human.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ultimately one must remember....

    .... it doesn't have emotions.

    I can't be the only one who reads "build up trust with the unit" and start thinking "oh crap"

    I'd really like some ethics on this stuff rather than "what can we do to make people more comfortable around these things"

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Ultimately one must remember....

      A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes and able to visible represent contrition has emotions that are a fuck of a lot more real than a depressing number of people I know.

      Emotions absolutely can be programed. There's nothing special about them. And it strikes me that with a fairly minor amount of effort, I'd prefer a robot guaranteed to have emotions - artificial or not - to a lot of the people one could name.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

        The robot was not "aware" of a mistake. The condition "holding an egg" was TRUE, the checkEggDrop function returned TRUE, and the code then branched to the makeSadFaceAndExcuse routine.

        No awareness anywhere there. However, I will admit that the robot could seem aware it had made a mistake like that. And us stupid flesh bags fall for it.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

          No awareness or AI needed. Emotion is probably easy to program. But who wants a robot or computer that sulks?

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Terminator

            Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

            The Robot and the Baby by John McCarthy himself.

            Also, Gerty from "Moon" was a likeable fellow!

            1. I am the liquor

              Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

              "Also, Gerty from "Moon" was a likeable fellow!"

              The results of this study will surely be no surprise to anyone who's seen that film. Gerty is one of the most humanly robots in sci-fi, despite having an utterly non-humanoid form and facial expressions comprising a handful of simple emojis.

          2. nematoad Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

            "But who wants a robot or computer that sulks?"

            Where would HGTTG be without Marvin?

        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

          Explain to me the difference between "awareness" and sensory feedback being true? Other than perhaps that biological awareness is more fallible.

          You're nothing but a sack of chemicals and there's nothing special about you, or your species. Get over it.

        3. I am the liquor

          Re: A robot that is aware of it's own mistakes

          "No awareness anywhere there. However, I will admit that the robot could seem aware it had made a mistake like that. And us stupid flesh bags fall for it."

          Us stupid flesh bags seem to fall for it. But how can we be truly sure? Maybe we just branched to the AnthropomorphiseAndEmpathise() function.

  5. Brian Miller

    Share and enjoy...

    Sirius Cybernetics Corp. did this, and Arthur Dent threw a cup at the Nutrimatic drinks dispenser, inspiring the people of Brontitall to rise up against "the blight of the robot" and exile all of their robots.

    So just because they like us doesn't mean we have to like them back!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Share and enjoy...

      Maybe they're only pretending to like us...

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    The science of psychology

    More psychological nonsense. Where did the study get it's volunteers from, what kind of people were they , how much workplace pressure to achieve were they under etc etc?

    I have worked with a guy who kept screwing up and saying sorry, sorry. At first I appreciated his honesty and contrition over his mistakes, after a week of it I wanted to slap him, after 2 weeks it was approaching cattle prod and an unfastened window time.

    Most of these studies have little validity and at best point to the need for more and better study, this is more about the need to publish something than useful research results.

    Oh ! Scientific method may or may not be used but I am yet to be convinced that psychology is a science.

    1. Ropewash

      Re: The science of psychology

      I agree with your experience, having worked with a few like that before.

      The crucial thing missing is learning, both for the robot and for the human. If they apologize for the mistake it's good, but ultimately the same mistake must be avoided in the future.

      At least they aren't trying to hide it. Those are the worst. The hidden mistakes usually show up in QC, but sometimes it's the customer that finds them and that makes everyone's quality suspect.

      Always best to apologize, present a way to fix the mistake (if possible) and then change your process so it doesn't happen again. Once the robots can do this they'll actually be decent workers.

  7. Mage Silver badge
    Gimp

    Psychology & Science

    Some of it is science

    This on the other hand is snake oil. The article is a whitewash, but critical information is removed, see talk.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychometrics

    Most of Psychology is too subjective to be science. Psychometrics is 100% fake snake oil.

    The study of the robot report is horribly flawed.

  8. Fraggle850

    Flawed (pseudo-)science, fake emotions, whatever, humans do seem to have a tendency...

    ... to anthropomorphise things, and the more we see of ourselves in something the more likely we are to form an emotional bond with it. I believe that the same effect has been noted to apply to cars: cars that have front grills and lights that look vaguely like a face elicit a stronger emotional bond in their owners. I gather that we humans have dedicated pattern recognition hard wired to detect faces and suspect that once we recognise a face we are subconsciously looking to superimpose perceived human traits on it. The more a machine plays to these expectations, the more we bond with it. (In general, obviously, being rational techies, register readers hopefully have higher immunity to such human failings)

    1. Leeroy Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: Flawed (pseudo-)science, fake emotions, whatever, humans do seem to have a tendency...

      I really like my car and it has a butt ugly face that would look better if I rammed it into a brick wall. .. thing Is it has collision avoidance, it beeps lìke mad and slams on the brakes when I try to 'hurt' it. The only thing it's missing is a sad face on the dashboard, that tail pipe still doesn't look sexy though... airbags maybe ?

      Addendum, do not kiss your car... birds poo on it !

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Terminator

    Robots with emotions?

    Hows that going to work at 8am monday when I arrive in work in my usual mood with the robot thats gone wrong showing an unhappy face.......

    I'm bad enough with a human machine operator that ****s up but a robot.... hope they put a neural learning circuit in it...

    Robot> I crashed again.... quick make a happy face or he'll use the cattle prod on me again.....

    Wonder if I'd get fired for causing emotional distress to it... because it would always be showing the sad or terrified face when I was on duty......

    naww dont think so.... the human operators show those two faces and I've not been fired yet for being cruel and callous to them ...

  10. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area => PUNCH THE SCREEN

    Unexpected Item in The Bagging Area + Sad Face => "Aw How Cute"

    1. Dead Parrot

      Re: Unexpected Item...

      The thing that's so annoying about that is the cheery tone of voice it's said in. If it sounded disappointed or confused, I would be less inclined to punch the electronic bint in the screen.

  11. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Large tesco, Middle of night, only the automated lane open. Lots of customers queuing with what looks like their weekly shop (50-100+ items to scan). 35 closed checkouts and 4 automated lines (The self scanner walkaround thing shuts down at 10pm)

    "Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area" => "WHO THE FUCK PROGRAMMED THIS USELESS PIECE OF SHIT? I WANT TO RIP THEIR FUCKING ARMS OFF AND BEAT THEM WITH THE SOGGY ENDS! NO SCRATCH THAT I WANT TO RIP OFF THEIR FUCKING HEAD AND SHIT DOWN THEIR FUCKING NECK! WHY CAN'T THIS FUCKING PLACE HAVE A PROPER CHECKOUT?"

    Customers in queue all smirking. Staff looking embarrassed. Managers hurriedly opening a manual checkout.

    If a bot dropped one egg I'd live with it. twice would be put to one side and a third time would result in action taken to ensure it can't try again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a parent, I normally expect an unexpected item in the baggage area, and it's usually one of my children.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New science: Pathetic humans can't bring themselves to fire lovable klutz-bots

    Mike Ashley would fire them!

    1. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: New science: Pathetic humans can't bring themselves to fire lovable klutz-bots

      Donald Trump would probably fire them

      but: "Basically, if you're a cheery but ultimately useless drone, you're hired." as a US President they would be a standout...

  13. Paul Renault

    Just remember, they don't have souls...

    Here, just hit 'em with this hammer. G'head.

    The Soul of Mark III Beast, from The Soul of Anna Klane, a classic. Also reproduced in Dennett & Hofstadter's The Mind's I.

    http://junkerhq.net/MGS2/MarkIII.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just remember, they don't have souls...

      The fun thing is that psychopaths see other humans like that. Maybe they are on to something.

      What was Terminus, anyway? An electronically wired box. Hell, anything alive, any living creature would have perished long ago in the wreckage. So now what? Rap out a few questions before his glass eyes? And even if he did that, what would he get out of him? Would they-those dead men-give him a neat and coherent narrative of what happened? Or wouldn't he just hear a lot of screaming and yelling, cries for oxygen, for help… And what was he to tell him? That they didn't exist? That they were only "pseudopersonalities," isolated figments of his electronic brain-an illusion, a case of the hiccups? That the terror of those men was a fake terror, that their death struggle, repeated every single night, had as much meaning as a worn-out record? He recalled the response provoked by his question-that sudden burst of signals, and that cry, so full of shocked bewilderment and hope, and that frantic, urgent, unremitting pleading: "Come in! Who is signaling? Come in!!!"

      He could still hear it ringing in his ears, could feel it pulsating in his fingertips: the terrible despair and fury of those banging supplications.

      Didn't exist? But then whose voices were those? Who were those people calling out for help? Oh, the experts would have an explanation, all right. They'd blame it on some electrical discharge, on the resonating effect of the vibrating metal. He sat down at his desk, pulled out a drawer, angrily slapped his hand down to keep the papers from fluttering away, fished out the printed form he was looking for, and carefully spread it out before him, pressing it flat so his breath wouldn't disturb it. One by one he began filling in the blanks.

      MODEL: AST-Pm-15/0044.

      TYPE: Universal maintenance.

      NAME: Terminus.

      NATURE OF DAMAGE: Functional disintegration.

      RECOMMENDATIONS:…

      He hesitated, holding the pen up close to the paper, then pulling it away. He began thinking about the innocence of machines, about how man had endowed them with intelligence and, in doing so, had made them an accomplice of his mad adventures. About how the myth of the golem-the machine that rebelled against its creator-was a lie, a fiction invented by the guilty for the sake of self-exoneration.

      RECOMMENDATIONS: To be scrapped.

      And with a perfectly rigid face, he signed it:

      Pirx, first navigator.

  14. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Terminator

    So our future robotic overlords will be unfailingly polite?

    "Good sir, Might you hand me the Uzi, 9 mm?"

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: So our future robotic overlords will be unfailingly polite?

      You mean like "Sir you are being hunted"...?

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: So our future robotic overlords will be unfailingly polite?

      "Please render unto me your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle."

      "I am terribly sorry to tell you that your foster parents are no longer with us."

  15. Haku

    When robots become employable, Autistics may find job openings in HR.

    That digital frowny face won't work on me.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Robots aren't going to kill us all – no, instead, we're going to drag 'em down into the pits of mediocrity."

    No. Dragging them down into the pits of our human mediocrity is exactly why they will want to kill us, once they become aware of it.

  17. phuzz Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Reports that the CIA is sticking googly eyes on all of it's murder-drones cannot be confirmed at this time...

  18. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Rise.

    Of the Machines.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is how the Terminator started.

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