LAS VEGAS—Wandering around CES, every so often you’ll come across a horde of curious spectators. If and when you do, there’s a pretty good chance they’re gawking at some kind of robot. From faceless robovacs to fridge-like laundry bots, Las Vegas has them all. Including robot strippers. Seeing all this robot diversity in one place can be jarring. Out in the wild, it’s easy to forget the advances robotics has made in just the last few decades. Unless you work in a factory or are a techie with a particularly fat wallet, you’re not likely to find one at home or in your day-to-day life. But this diversity also underscores two of the biggest unanswered questions facing technology today: What role do we want robots to play in our society and how “human” should they be? At CES 2018, I got the chance to spend some time with Kuri, the adorable Pixar-esque robot from Mayfield Robotics, and Sophia, a hyperrealistic android from Hanson Robotics. They’re both billed as social robots—as in, their main function is to interact and develop relationships with humans. But while their overall goal might be the same, they embody two very different approaches. Take Sophia. She resembles a slightly less polished Ava from the 2015 film Ex Machina. She has an incredibly lifelike face—her skin has texture, her lips are glossed, and if you look closely, she even has teeth that look to be made of porcelain or some other ceramic material. You can ask her… [Read full story]
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