who, as a graduate student in Rodney Brooks’s group at MIT, con- structed the robot, is Kismet’s guiding spirit.When she was a little girl, Breazeal writes, she was “captivated and fascinated” by two “compel- ling characters” from the 1977 science fiction film Star Wars, the ro- bots R2-D2 and C-3PO. Now she describes her “dream of a sociable robot:”
Taking R2-D2 and C-3PO as representative instances, a sociable robot is able to communicate and interact with us, understand and even relate to us, in a personal way. It is . . . socially intelligent in a human-like way.We interact with it as if it were a person, and ultimately as a friend.
Breazel argues for the importance of socially intelligent artificial beings, as they enter the human world with potential uses from enter- tainment to healthcare to military applications. Noting that we hu- mans have become competent at social interaction because dealing with each other has been essential to developing a sophisticated hu- man culture, she suggests that people relate better to technology that displays “rich social behavior.” Socially intelligent beings could be- come colleagues with whom we communicate as easily as we do with people, and whom we even like having around.An important part of Breazeal’s thinking is the idea that the right kind of interaction will encourage people to teach a being just as they would teach a human child, with important consequences for the future of artificial beings.
Social capability has been built into Kismet, which has no body, hands, or legs, only a head and face meant to interact with people through expressive movements and speech, with appropriate use of vision and hearing. As described earlier, the robot has exaggerated, clownlike features—big blue eyes, prominent lips, and conspicuous animal-like ears—which it moves to convey emotional states that people immediately grasp. Kismet does not look human, however. Breazeal chose not to attempt that illusion because an imperfect simu- lation of humanity can be disturbing. Instead, the design suggests a fantasy creature that acts believably human, an approach that has been brought to perfection in Walt Disney’s animated offerings.
Further, Kismet’s looks and behavior were chosen to give the impression that it is young. It has big eyes, and its visual system seeks