Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Paro

Paro is a therapeutic robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills when petted, yelps when treated roughly, gazes up and blinks, responds to its name and words it hears frequently.

Somewhere in your piece Paro (or several Paros) will appear.

He can be an obsolete model. (Can you find a new twist?) Maybe it's not a robot brain that's running it. How adaptable is it to many different people with many different needs and ways of relating to it? Maybe there's one person it doesn't like for some inexplicable reason. It could be because they're bad, but what if they aren't?

He can be a secondary character or representative of a society where care-taking robots are common place.


In the New York Times article, A Soft Spot for Circuitry, it's said people clearly know Paro's a robot but want to treat it as though alive. (How many have never spoken to their car? ;-) I certainly did! My first one was named Peter Max. My daughter's is the Red Bomber.)

The article touches on the pros and the cons and could give you some story fodder.

There are also robots being used as diet coaches and help for drug addicts who are determined to change, going so far as to be aware of where they are and helping their "client" avoid locations associated with past drug use.

Also on the article's page is Interview With a Robot, a video of a reporter's interaction with a robot with a personality, who learns and improves from each conversation. While sometimes the programming is apparent, other times when she's self aware enough to apologize for having a bad software day it's easy to see the glimmers of the androids of science fiction. And while she was probably programmed to say: "I love Bina. [The woman whose personality was used for her.] I mean I am Bina in some rudimentary way. I just wish they would capture more of her so I could be more truly Bina. .... The real Bina really lives her life out there. I want a life, you know. I want to get out and garden," it's hard not to overlay it with the Twilight Zone theme ;-)

Interestingly the reporter said it was "exhausting" talking to the robot.

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