A year or two later, in that same laboratory, you would have met another robot, Kismet, created by Cynthia Breazeal, Brooks’s graduate student at the time, now an MIT professor and well-known robotics researcher in her own right.Where Cog is intimidating, Kismet has a face out of a children’s storybook, clownlike and cartoonish with ex- aggerated features—huge blue eyes, bright red lips, and prominent, highly mobile ears.Approach Kismet and engage its attention by wav- ing a toy or talking, and it responds in a tiny voice, moving its head, and adjusting its face to smile, or to look sad, angry, or fearful.When Kismet was young, Breazeal brought in adults and children to interact with it.Today she says,“Kismet became a personality to them, to the point where people still ask me ‘How’s Kismet?’They refer to Kismet as a creature rather than this thing in the lab.”
Human reactions to Cog and Kismet offer an important lesson: regardless of what is going on inside an artificial being—and the de- bate over what might constitute “machine intelligence” and “machine consciousness” is a deep and continuing one—the merest hint of hu- manlike action or appearance deeply engages us. Cog generates a sur- prising sense of life simply through its reactions to its environment. Kismet goes further; it reacts to people with, for example, facial ex- pressions that humans sense in a direct and natural way.
Other artificial creatures add vigorous body movements or other levels of interaction. At the Honda research laboratories in Japan, a child-size robot, humanoid in outline, walks, balances on one foot, and nimbly climbs stairs without a hitch. At MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Palo Alto Research Center, artificial creatures roll, slither, crawl, stride, and hop across the floor, or configure and reconfigure their bodies so as to locomote in the most efficient way. At the ROBODEX 2003 exposition in Yokohama, Japan, robots an- swered questions, reacted to human body language, sang, danced, and played soccer. At Walt Disney theme parks in the United States and Europe, and in countless Hollywood movies, entertainment androids convincingly simulate people, animals, and imaginary beings.
Most remarkably, artificial creatures are beginning to generate a kind of emotional lifelikeness because they create warm feelings in