Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Robot Teachers

Recently my friend Carrie and I discussed Students, Meet Your Teacher, Mr. Robot from Sunday's New York Times about the use of robots to teach various kinds of students. One of the first was an autisitic child and then later they talk about using the robots to teach such things as language.

Carrie's reaction was that it seems too close to the darker aspects of Steven Spielberg's A..I.: Artificial Intelligence. As one of the characters in the film asks, "Can you get a human to love a machine?" (I am paraphrasing here). But it doesn't seem that far fetched that young students who bond with hugs and trust with their early school teachers might develop the same kind of attachments for the machine. Do any of you remember a 1982 production called "The Electric Grandmother" with Maureen Stapleton based on Ray Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric"? In it human children deal with the death of their mother through interacting with a robot. I remember it a very touching story.

What struck me about the article was the idea that the less the robot looked human, the more the kids could relate to it. Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics talks about how we as humans look at anything picture that approximates the human face and see ourselves. The less detailed the features--think Charlie Brown as opposed to Brenda Starr--the more people can identify. Perhaps that is the same reason that we find Wall-E so appealing (or E.T. for that matter). He is humanlike but not totally.

I covered some of the current robotic additions in my entry Welcome to the Future and the more I read the more I realize it is here.

P.S. Found this very funny view of some of the latest robots.

1 comment:

kathryn said...

Interesting. Yes, I vaguely remember The Electric Grandmother.

I always thought kids liked ET and Wall-E 'cause they thought it was more like a pet than an equal (human).