When People Meet Robots: Tell Us Your Stories of People-Machine Interactions

I'm calling for case studies, stories, anecdotes of the interaction between intelligent robots and people in public spaces and working places for a feature page in next quarter's IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine.

Here's why: How many people do you know who treat their PCs like a pet, or fear their laptop will attack them in the night? Now give that laptop its own set of wheels, set a doll on top, and suddenly the story changes: The perceptive area of our brains flashes neon: "Human!"

When computer users encounter a problem with their system, they blame the software provider or the malevolent who sent them a virus. They attribute any intent to the far side of the keyboard, not inside the box.

However, the fact that a laptop can be used to actuate motors and drive around a building on its own may change the perception from a machine controlled by human beings to a machine that is a being itself.

Will that perception evolve over time now that we have commercial robot operating systems like Motivity and hobby systems like SPARK and Mindstorms that let children and computer-literate adults program interactive and intelligently navigating robot applications? Or will motion and a face continue to cause people to treat robots like human beings?

I'm looking for stories about people interacting with real robots, in the workplace, in public or in the classroom, that show how neophytes feel when they first meet robots in the course of their normal daily activities, and, if possible, how those perceptions or interactions change over time.

Please send your contributions to jdietsch [at] mobilerobots.com

Jeanne Dietsch is co-founder and CEO of MobileRobots, based in Amherst, N.H.

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