"Soldiers Falling In Love With Robots?" Report

Here’s an interesting report I saw on YouTube today, by The Young Turks news show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOFeslCsAJA. Some research has been looking into the extremely close ‘relationships’ that sometimes form between soldiers and the robots that help them out everyday. Soldiers name them after their wifes/girlfriends and even give them funerals with 21-gun salutes. However, these close bonds might affect the readiness of soldiers in using such robots as tools, and putting them at risk. The host goes on to discuss how future military technology will affect not only our own troops, but the countries that we invade as well. What do you think of the findings? I know it’s a completely different circumstance, but has anyone ever felt somewhat ‘connected’ to their team’s robot?

(*Also, I tried to post this in the ‘Extra Discussion’ forum, but I got a message saying I didn’t ‘have permission to access the page’ when clicking the ‘New Thread’ button. Anyone know why this might be?)

I get attached to most of our robots that we built. Not quite like soldiers, but still attached! If ours tip over I get all worried about it and I feel bad for it.

That being said, I didn’t get attached to last year’s robot…

Thanks for linking! I find it interesting that near the end of the segment, even the commentator refers to the robots as “creatures” - which by definition a creature is “an animal, as distinct from a human being”.

The first couple images shown (the black robots) are actually the robots my company makes :slight_smile: - the Talon Robot.

Our employees have heard tons and tons of these stories over the years. One of the most common is that the soldiers will send back a nearly completely destroyed robot for “repairs” that will sometimes cost more than just buying a new robot because they “want THEIR robot back.” I think that much of the attachment to these robots is that they perform actions a human typically would, and have saved many many lives. When you get into the details of operating one of these robots, and you are using its cameras to drive through buildings or on roadsides while the soldier sits outside the building or in a vehicle, they start to put themselves in the robot’s perspective, much like a lot of the first person video games. The video game feels more real because your perspective maps to what it is showing. The soldiers become more attached to it because it “becomes an extension of them”. They use its gripper to move around sand and pull apart wires. The robot can even be used to drag a human to safety. When you get into situations like that, the robot is a companion.

I feel like I don’t see this quite as much with FIRST robots because for right now, the operators are generally driving with their own vision for much of the time, and can almost always see the robot they are operating, so it is less of an extension. Plus they aren’t generally performing operations that directly replace a human (sure humans can throw frisbees & shoot balls, but the FIRST games do not directly simulate something we attribute as a “human-based game”).

But people definitely react interestingly to the robots when the robot begins to “act” more human - usually if you put a FIRST robot in situation where you cannot see the drivers, and it does something relating to humans (so say the 2008 robots grabbing trashcans and wheeling them around to people, or even just a robot “following” a person with no apparent driver). The more “human” the robots act, the more they become relatable, and people react to the robot rather than the drivers.

I will be interested to see more out of this study. We had Dr. Matthias Scheutz, a professor from the Tufts Human Robot Interaction Lab come in to speak at a SWE meeting that QinetiQ hosted, and his whole talk was on “The Virtues and Vices of Social Robots”. He talked a lot about the attachments people form, and when I got a tour of his lab, they were working on a couple of experiments that involved robots showing emotion, or robots evoking emotions in humans.

If this type of interaction and study fascinates anyone, I would HIGHLY suggest reading Isaac Asimov’s Robot Series of Novels. It ponders some incredibly deep questions regarding human robot interaction.

An I attached to our robots? Yes. But I think it’s a different attachment than these soldiers appear to have. We spend lots of time and energy designing and building these robots from the ground up. It’s not something to just drop easily. When I see a robot I’ve worked on crash, I worry about what might have been damaged, how I can fix it, etc. So yes I feel attached to them, but in a different manner.

Extra Discussion is the default forum where threads are automatically created when you start a comment thread on a CD-Media photo/paper. Chit Chat would have been a better sub-forum for this thread.

I didnt get attached my first 2 years but last year, my jr year I got very attached. I had a lot of stuff happen shortly before the season started so I got extremely attached to the robot and several components on the robot that I had I hand in building. But still not nearly as attached as soldiers get which I think is very cool