Would you let a spy into your house?

I used to have a Poo Chi when I was little. A grey robot dog, with green ears. I named it “Spot”, after the yellow puppy, Spot, in Eric Hill’s children’s books. Original, right? They were my favourite books. Anyways, it was as close as I got to owning a pet dog.

Pink Poo Chi, via Wikimedia Commons

I never really felt a close connection with Spot. Sure, it was smart enough to sit, wiggle its ears and tail, and bark songs, but it wasn’t all that exciting. Being a youngling confuddled by technology, I couldn’t figure out how to get Spot to obey my commands. Eventually as Spot’s batteries died, so did its small place in my heart. The last of Spot’s fate was to collect dust at the bottom of my toy cupboard.

Modern robot toys are far more developed than back then. A measly robot dog is no longer as exciting. Kids nowadays prefer humanoid or dinosaur robots. To be fair, how cool are those?

Robots are generally invented to make our lives easier, to automate mundane tasks that would otherwise be unnecessarily time-consuming. Robot vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, etc. While they do do their job, it’s so amusing to watch them bump around as they try to maneuver through the furniture. But other times, robots are invented for entertainment value, as with Spot.

Over time, those two concepts seemingly ravelled together to give rise to companion robots. Companion robots are perfect for elderly widows or only-children. They are able to interact with the user using simple pre-loaded phrases, walk around, and do tricks. Something excellent for those that are lonely and just want a friend.

However with the advancement of technology, newer models of companion robots are able to do much more. Some are able to navigate around the house, some recognise voices and facial features of users. Some even have the ability to connect to your phone and access the internet. Most of these ‘home’ robots also use a camera to aid in facial recognition and spatial awareness.

This is already spelling out trouble.

Kuri is home robot that is like an amazon echo mounted on top of an iRobot Roomba. But with ‘emotions’. And actively interacts with people in the house, and also has different greetings depending on which family member. Which can also capture ‘special moments’ with its camera eyes. Oh my gosh, it’s basically a secret spy pretending to be a home robot!

Heaps of things could go out of hand with these robots having access to all these and can potentially cause great harm. Yet maybe the pros of having a home robot outweigh the cons. They are pretty much a super compliant family member who doesn’t require eating food, and follows you while playing your favourite songs and audiobooks. As long as we are up-to-date with our privacy, and making sure that everything is secure, it’s safe to share warmth with a companion, who doesn’t feel it, but certainly gives it.

Although I didn’t have a particularly good relationship with Spot, to tell you the truth, I love my iRobot Roomba. Sometimes it loudly undocks to vacuum the floor, rudely waking me from my sleep. But it truly breaks my heart to see it tangled up in the plastic bags from our previous shopping trip. I’ve formed an uncanny fondness towards Roomba through the countless hours I’ve stared at it get itself into senseless trouble, i.e. getting trapped under the dining table.

iRobot Roomba, own photo

So what do you think? Is our future doomed to be taken over by super intelligent home robots? Or will they become important family members who will have a special place in our heart?

6 Responses to “Would you let a spy into your house?”

  1. Claudia says:

    Hi Sophia, that’s very true. Although, programs and robots are quite different. Robots have access to various forms of hardware which can be utilised to collect more data, but I guess it all comes down to how they are programmed.

  2. Claudia says:

    Hi Jamie, I think you have a good point there. Regulation of the robots is certainly important, especially if we are entrusting personal information to them!

  3. Sophia Ren says:

    I think that depend on how we treat them. We are developing robots that can be either ‘intelligent’ or ‘single function’. Alpha go is very smart, but all it can do is play the chess (its program is not enough for it to develop independent intelligence).

  4. Jamie Liew says:

    I remember having one of these! It’s funny what we humans get attached to. I think our trust in these robots depends on how the corporations who produce the robots/the technology behind the robots are regulated. But I think there will be a balance of both: super intelligent home robots who have a special place in our hearts!

  5. Claudia says:

    That may be true. But if done too late, it could prove harmful.

  6. I think a key will be to regard them as objects instead of humans with emotions, so it’s easier to de-function them by taking out the power.