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Should Robots Have a Face?

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Marty the robot.

Will robots with friendly faces and cute names help people feel good about devices that are taking over an increasing amount of human work?

Credit: Whitten Sabbatini/The New York Times

When Tina Sorg first saw the robot rolling through her Giant supermarket in Harrisburg, PA, she said to herself, "That thing is a little weird."

Programmed to detect spills and debris in the aisles, the robot looked like an inkjet printer with a long neck.

"It needed personality," said Sorg, 55, who manages the store's beer and wine department.

So, during one overnight shift, she went out to a nearby arts and craft store, brought back a large pair of googly eyes and, when no one was looking, affixed them on the top of the robot.

The eyes were a hit with executives at the global grocery company Ahold Delhaize, which owns the Giant and Stop & Shop supermarket chains. They are now a standard feature on the company's nearly 500 robots across the U.S.


From The New York Times
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