Angelica Lim, who works as a "developer on emotion recognition" on the Pepper robot at Aldebaran Robotics in Paris, specializes in building robots that can identify and express emotions.
"Our machines, our phones...they can't empathize," Lim says. "I think that's the biggest hurdle. We want a robot to be compassionate."
Lim sees such machines helping to coach or encourage people to seek out social contact, citing as an example robots designed to detect sadness so they can cheer people up. Lim also says the idea is not to replace people with robots, noting they could be very useful as companions for the elderly at times when they are alone, to name one example.
"There's a field of robotics called 'developmental robotics' that says that robots will become intelligent by learning expression like children do," Lim says. "The idea is that expressions are developed through time and interactions." Lim envisions robots learning to recognize emotions and respond appropriately in a similar manner.
She says the biggest misconception people have about robots and emotions might be about what emotions they talk about. "People think a robot will 'get emotional,' which has a negative connotation," Lim says. "It's important to think about the compassionate part. Being able to share emotions."
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