READING 2 ROBOT
Robots are smart. With their computer brains, they can do work that humans prefer not to do because it is dangerous, dirty, or boring. Some robots are taking jobs away from people. Bobby is a mail carrier robot that brings mail to a large office building in Washington, D.C. There are hundreds of mail carrier robots in the United States. In more than seventy hospitals around the world, robots called Help Mates take medicine down halls call for elevators, and deliver meals. In Washington, D.C., a tour guide at the Smithsonian museum is a robot called Minerva. About 20 percent of the people who met Minerva said that she seemed as intelligent as a person. There is even a robot that is a teacher.
Mr. Leachim is a fourth-grade teacher robot. He weighs 200 pounds, is six feet tall, and has some advantages as a teacher. One advantage is that he doesn’t forget details. He knows each child’s name, the parents’ names, and what each child knows and needs to know. In addition, he knows each child’s pets and hobbies. Mr. Leachim doesn’t make mistakes. Each child tells Mr. Leachim his or her name and then enters an identification number. His computer brain puts the child’s voice and number together. He identifies the child with no mistakes. Then he starts the lesson.
Another advantage is that Mr. Leacchim is flexible. If the children do not understand something, they can repeat Mr. Leachim’s lesson over and over again. When the children do a good job, he tells them something interesting about their hobbies. At the end of the lesson, the children switch off Mr. Leachim. The good thing about Mr. Leachim is that he doesn’t have a nervous system like a human, so he doesn’t get upset if a child is “difficult.”
Today, scientists are trying to create a robot that shows emotions like a human being. At M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Cynthia Breazeal has created a robot called Kismet. It has only a head at this time. Aa soon as Breazeal comes and sits in front of Kismet, the robot’s mood changes. The robot smiles. Breazeal talks to it the way a mother talks to a child, and Kismet watches and smiles. When Breazeal starts to move message Kismet is giving is “Stop this!” Breazeal stops, and Kismet becomes calm. Breazeal now pays no attention to Kismet, and the robot becomes sad. When Breazeal turns toward Kismet, the robot is happy again. Another thing Kismet does like a child is to play with a toy and then become bored with the toy and close its eyes and go to sleep. Breazeal is still developing Kismet. Kismet still has many things missing in its personality. It does not have all human emotions yet, but one day it will!
At one time, people said that computers could not have emotions. It looks very possible that in the future scientists will develop a computer that does have emotions and can even be a friend. But what are the advantages of having a friend that’s a machine?