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robotic personality

Robotic personality is an advanced aspect of artificial intelligence (AI) in which smart machines display idiosyncratic human behavior. In particular, "personality" refers to the ability of a robot or personal computer (PC) to interact with people emotionally as well as on a logical level.

The notion of robotic personality is based on anthropomorphism, a tendency for people to think of certain objects or machines as having human-like characteristics. Anthropomorphism is not new. In the 1800s, Charles Babbage conceived a device called the Analytical Engine that seemed as if it would have a sense of "aliveness." Today, computers and robots have brought anthropomorphism out of the realm of science fiction. Robots can be programmed to rescue a human from a burning building or to administer medication in a hospital. High-end PC programs can learn from their mistakes (or from the errors of their users), improving performance over time. Machines can generate order from chaos, one of the prime criteria scientists use to define life.

In science-fiction books and movies, computers and androids are easy to anthropomorphize. A well-known example of anthropomorphism with respect to a computer occurs in the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this story, a spacecraft is controlled by Hal, a computer that becomes paranoid. A fictional android with especially human-like characteristics is Data from the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Owners of high-end personal robots sometimes think of the machines as companions.

Learn about IT:
The Guardian (UK) describes how robots might interact with humans in the future.
Hammacher Schlemmer distributes an interactive robot panda with multiple personalities.
Maja Mataric is developing a care-giving robot with a personality.

This was last updated in May 2008

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