Monday, April 03, 2006

NPR : Robot Receptionist Dishes Directions and Attitude

Adding a personality to a robot receptionist? haven't these people seen the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?

NPR : Robot Receptionist Dishes Directions and Attitude: "a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is exploring how to make robots more engaging over the long term. Their assistant is roboreceptionist Marion 'Tank' LeFleur.

Tank sits in the lobby of a computer science building, at a desk decorated with desert storm camouflage and a framed photo of Dwight Eisenhower. He has a computer monitor for a head. On the screen is a blue Frankenstein face. When his sensors register your presence, he smiles pleasantly and says, 'Hello there. What can I do for you?'

Type on his keyboard and you can ask Tank the same questions you'd ask a real receptionist: Where is the bathroom? Where can I get some food? You can also ask Tank where to find the office of Reid Simmons, the computer science professor who created the robot. Then, try asking Tank what he thinks of Reid Simmons.

'Dr. Reid is my boss,' says Tank, sounding wary. 'I don't know him very well yet. Don’t you think he has shifty eyes? And, what's up with that hair?'

Tank's suspicions about his boss come courtesy of the university's School of Drama. It's all part of an experiment on how to make robots less boring. The answer, Simmons says, is simple: turn the robot into a soap opera."

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