Should robots look human?

If, one day in the very near future, you decided to go out and buy yourself a home robot. Would you want that robot to look exactly like a human being, or would you want it to look . . . well, like a robot? The following video is five years old, and improvements have been made since then, but wouldn’t this robot be better if it (or she?) looked more like Robby?

Many people experience the creeps when they see a robot, especially if, just at first glance, it appears to be a human being. Back in Victorian times, people would sometimes take photographs of the recently dead. Known as post-mortem photography, it is a rather peculiar collecting interest today, with photos fetching high prices. Dead relatives were arranged so that they appeared to be posing for the photograph. A couple of examples can be seen on Wikipedia – click here – and they sometimes come up for sale on eBay. For me, looking at one of these photographs has a similar effect to looking at a humanoid robot that is waiting for instructions. Their eyes have no life, no soul behind them, they look dead.

I would suggest that more people would accept robots in their homes if they looked like friendly walking machines. The word “friendly” is rather important here! We wouldn’t really want a Cylon at home would we!

Another consideration is whether robots should have two legs and two arms. I know that is accepted as normal for human beings, but should it apply to robots? The robot from South Korea which won the recent DARPA challenge, also had wheels on its knees so that it could transform into a more useful shape for certain circumstances. And while we are on the subject of transforming, why not have a self-driving car that can transform into a robot? Hey, they could make a film about that!



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