Love, Robot Style

Love is in the air, from Capital Hill debating birth control to Superbowl ads – “give and you shall receive.”   Robots touch so much of humanity, so why not the most intimate of moments.  As the Tin Man exclaimed, a bot wants a heart.

As we follow the yellow brink road to Oz, we are struck with the idea of Lovotics by Hooman Samani, an artificial intelligence researcher in Keio-NUS CUTE Center which is a collaborative lab between National University of Singapore (NUS) and Keio University of Japan. Lovotics is defined as the research between human and robot relationships.  Lovotics aims to introduce a new generation of robots that have the ability to love and be loved by humans.  This is not some deviant sexual fantasy, but a real AI pursuit that involves physics, physiology and the emotions of the human being that is modeled into a working mechanical device.  For example, a wealth of information can be gleaned by the input of a person’s body language which is entered into the “affective system” of the robot a”to generate suitable states and behaviors.”

Lovotics has two applications in beta test, Kissenger and Mini-Surrogate.   Kissnger is an application of Lovotics that includes a pair of robots that are able to transfer a kiss over long distances.  Think telepresence with lips.  This is the ultimate tool in long distance relationships. We all know the power of a kiss, but it also creates a biological response that enables “prospective mates to smell and taste each other’s pheromones for detecting compatibility.”  Could a robot be a kissing agent for future match makers?  Well not exactly, it copies the movement between two participants to transmit the intimacy of a kiss through a humanoid robot (that looks a lot like Furbie).  Mini-Surrogate is the American Girl doll version that transmits movement between two parties to offer a wave of comforting touch.

I know what you are wondering – what happens when you combine the two?  Is Lovotics the predecessor to Blade Runner?  I hope not, because at the end of the day no one can replace the kiss or comfort of a human being even if they are programmed by Casanova himself.  The pursuit of finding one’s match and maintaining a real relationship is what makes us human (not robot).


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