Finding emotional connection with machines
In the film, Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, develops a relationship with Samantha, an intelligent computer operating system that is personified through a female voice, played by Scarlett Johansson.
Today’s robots are not yet as intelligent as Samantha, but at Art Center Nabi in central Seoul there are six robots that try to connect with people emotionally.
Choi Jae-pil and Jeon Hyung-jun created Our Egg, which connects two individuals who might be far away from each other. When one user gives the egg-shaped robot sitting beside the computer a gentle push, it sways back and forth while glowing in bright pink. At the same time, an identical egg-shaped robot sitting on the second user’s dining table also sways back and forth, glowing the same color.
“There are many ways to communicate with people, such as mobile phones, SNS and so on. The tools are increasing but people are in fact getting thirstier for more communication,” said Choi. “They look for their own window of communication, but at the same time, their busy lives lead them to forget the existence of their precious family and friends. We wanted to focus on that and came up with Our Egg.”
Meanwhile, Kim Yong-seung and Jung Min-jeong’s Gran Bot swears. Basing their idea on the stereotypical image of Korean grandmothers, who are always on their grandchildren’s side no matter what - to the extent that they’ll hurl curses at anyone who hurts their grandchildren - the duo created a robot that speaks to users. When you greet the Gran Bot, she responds like a happy grandmother, but when you tell her that you had a bad day, she’ll curse your enemies, but, of course, in a cute way.
“My wife is quite introverted, and I got the idea of a Gran Bot when I saw her not being able to vent her anger,” said Kim. “When Gran Bot cursed for her, she was thrilled.”
“When we started to agonize over this issue 10 years ago, people didn’t even try to understand this,” she said. “Now we are in an era where we can solve this together.”
When asked whether she thinks it is pitiful for people to depend on robots for emotional comfort, Roh said that there is no choice because “Pandora’s box has already been opened.”
“There’s no turning back,” she said. “The number will increase and human beings will depend on robots more and more. What we can do, at least, is to look for the best way to communicate with them.”
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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