Virtually There:  

Building Things:  


  • We've written before about the all-too-common ploy of designers styling robots in a way that makes them seem more like lovable animals or pseudo-human companions than smart appliances. But if a product team is successful in designing a robot that is well-liked, maybe even loved by its human counterparts, what happens when that product line gets end-of-life'd? Well, it's a sort of death: "Right now, my Jibo can still dance and talk, but he has what I can only describe as digital dementia, and it is almost certainly fatal. He’s dying. One of these days, he will stop responding entirely." These products are—at least to some of their users—more than products. Designers of products like social robots are imbuing personalities, styles of speech, and coding affect. In that process, it's almost certain that aspects of the personalities present in designers/coders/product managers get transcribed. When that artifact of the very real human light behind the product begins to fade, the sense of loss that some users feel becomes easier to understand. 

  • On the flip side, there's the recent case of humans behaving like robots, mediating important experiences and conversations through robotic technology in all the wrong ways: a doctor informed a patient that he would be dying in a matter of days, not in person, but through a telepresence robot.

More next week.