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Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots

This is a guest post. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of Automaton, IEEE Spectrum, or the IEEE. 


“Why do you cry, Gloria? Robbie was only a machine, just a nasty old machine. He wasn’t alive at all.”
“He was not no machine!” screamed Gloria fiercely and ungrammatically. “He was a person like you and me and he was my friend.”

– Isaac Asimov (1950)

Most discussions of “robot rights” play out in a seemingly distant, science-fictional future. While skeptics roll their eyes, advocates argue that technology will advance to the point where robots deserve moral consideration because they are “just like us,” sometimes referencing the movie Blade Runner. Blade Runner depicts a world where androids have human-like emotions and develop human-like relationships to the point of being indistinguishable from people. But Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel on which the film is based, contains a small, significant difference in storyline. In the book, the main character falls in love with an android that only pretends to requite his feelings. Even though he is fully aware of this fact, he maintains the one-directional emotional bond. The novel touches on a notably different, yet plausible, reality: humans’ moral consideration of robots may depend more on our own feelings than on any inherent qualities built into robots. 

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Boston Dynamics' Cheetah Robot Now Faster than Fastest Human

Boston Dynamics' Cheetah robot has just set a new record for legged robots by sprinting at 28.3 mph. This, incidentally, is also faster than Olympic (human) champion Usain Bolt, who set the world record for the 100 meter dash with a speed of 27.8 mph back in 2009. Yes, this means that now there is officially no escape from a robot cheetah on a treadmill. You've been warned.

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Study: Intelligent Cars Could Boost Highway Capacity by 273%

You're a terrible driver. Yes, you. Terrible. At least, you're terrible compared to a robot, which is smarter, faster, and more experienced. In fact, if we all just give up driving on highways and let robots take over for us, we could effectively end highway congestion as we know it by boosting the capacity of our existing roads by a staggering 273%.

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WeeBots: Driveable Robots for Babies Who Need Them

This is a WeeBot. It's one of the very few times it's okay to combine robots with babies, because a WeeBot is basically a way of turning a real baby into an unstoppable fusion of biology and engineering. Yes, we're talking about cyborg babies. Run!

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Kinect@Home Wants to Start 3D Scanning the World

Back in January, Adept's Erin Rapacki told us all that it's time to start 3D scanning the world. We agree with her, but it's not an easy thing to actually go and, you know, do. There are approximately 975 bajillion different objects out there in the world that robots need to know how to interact with, and the only way we're going to learn about them all (short of Google throwing approximately 975 bajillion dollars at the problem) is through a cooperative, crowdsourced effort like this new project called Kinect@Home.

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AeroVironment's Mola Robot Flies Underwater on Solar Power

A mola, or ocean sunfish, is a very big, very flat, and (in this reporter's opinion) rather silly looking tropical bony fish. Aerovioronment has used the sunfish as an inspiration for one of their latest proof of concept robots: Mola, an oceangoing robot that's powered by the sun.

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