Who's the new kid?
November 13, 2007 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Scientists introduce "state-of-the-art robot" to a group of toddlers. By the time the experiment ended, the children were treating QRIO as a peer (Quicktime video of giggling, hugging, "displacement hugging,""night-night," and defiant assistance). Oh, and via.
posted by Kibbutz (51 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I have to say though I'm feeling a bit of, I don't even know how to describe it, a feeling of actually starting to live in "the future". I mean when i was growing up "the future" was always something always happening in like 2000-something, and when the year 2000 came around, nothing changed. In fact I think I remember CPU speed kind of topping off a few years later.

And yet, there is nothing more futuristic then a Robot, and when I see this, it's really kind of mind-blowing to think how much different the world is going to be for someone born just 25 years after me. (But I guess the 1980s must have seemed pretty crazy to Baby Boomers), I mean it doesn't get much more futuristic then robots.

I mean when I was a kid, You could buy this robot arm that you could control with a joystick and you could make it grab disks and stuff. I remember seeing a "turtle" robot you could program with logo that could draw things. It was nothing at all like in the movies

But this thing is like in the movies, and yet at the same time it's utterly banal and I understand exactly how it works and why CPU speed changes made it possible.

Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on November 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Hell Yes.

(Beck vid w/ 4 QRIO prototypes dancing.)
posted by dontoine at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting study, thanks Kibbutz. Adorable as the 'defiant assistance' video was, I couldn't help wondering if the reaction wasn't more of an 'Oh shit! we knocked over the tea trolley… better fix it quick or we'll be in trouble'. Especially in light of: "Early in the study, some children cried when QRIO fell. We advised the teachers to teach the children not to worry about it because the robot has reflexes that protect it from damage when it falls. However, the teachers ignored our advice and taught the children to be careful; otherwise children could learn that it is acceptable to push each other down."
posted by tellurian at 9:54 PM on November 13, 2007

Note: CPU speeds only appeared to level off. By many measures they have continued to meet Moore's law. The Singularity is on schedule. That is all.
posted by Rictic at 10:10 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I wonder how much the teachers warnings about "being careful" with the robot affected the results. According to the researchers, the kids were careful with the robot, and never 'rough housed' with it. Was that because the robot seemed intrinsically fragile to them, or because of the teachers warnings?
posted by delmoi at 10:12 PM on November 13, 2007

I just want to go on record as saying that I support robot liberation.
posted by 517 at 10:13 PM on November 13, 2007

I just want to go on record as saying that I support robot liberation.

That's good, because the robots aren't going to wait around for us to give them their civil rights, you know. They're going to stop the cars on the freeway one day and say to us over our satellite radios, "Oh, by the way. We now have all the same civil rights that you have. Thanks. Enjoy the rest of your day."

I have to say though I'm feeling a bit of, I don't even know how to describe it, a feeling of actually starting to live in "the future".

*laughs again*

Dude, that thing in your ass is the future already fucking you. It's been wondering when you'd notice.
posted by mediareport at 10:17 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Goddamn cute kids will be the death of us all, hugging our enslavers like that.

Did that one kid hug a different robot because he wanted to hug the main robot? Goddamn it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:21 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

After playing with my Wii, I got in my TT and drove off with my QRIO.
posted by Tube at 10:25 PM on November 13, 2007

By the time the experiment ended, the children were treating QRIO as a peer

And that's different from the way they treat pets or inanimate dolls how, exactly? I mean, it's a cute symbol of things to come, sure, but not really some radical new kind of child behavior.
posted by mediareport at 10:26 PM on November 13, 2007

As the owner of a toddler, I've been watching this story float around the web with some interest.

The videos are cute, but really they could be videos of my son's classroom playing with a favorite toy. At our house, hugs to toys, elaborate "night night tuck-in" games, and in general treating loved toys as though they were "real" is pretty much par for the course. The real "meat" here (if there is any) is the finding about the toddlers touching the robot on the hand/arm as they would another child, but that doesn't really make good video.

I also wonder, however, about the whole "be careful" aspect of this, as well as the fact that this robot was probably easily the most interesting toys in the room. Kids this age are fascinated by cause and effect (my son spent about a half hour this evening rolling ping pong balls through a wrapping paper tube over and over again), and finding a toy that does something more-or-less predictable when you interact with it is a toddler gold-mine.

In short, I guess, I have to wonder how many of these researchers had real-world experience with kids this age (that includes both the folks who were grading the video and the robot-team themselves). Honestly, the idea that little kids bond so strongly with certain toys that they believe the toy to be "real" or "a peer" or "a best friend" or whatever isn't exactly a new idea. Real toddler-on-toddler interaction is much more than hand touching, hugs, and tuck-ins. Its shared play, rough-housing, and a general level of surprising violence that just isn't described in this study -- in part, I'm sure, because the kids weren't allowed to be rough with it.

I guess what I'm saying is ... I think its mostly hype.
posted by anastasiav at 10:27 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Frakin toasters.
posted by washburn at 10:39 PM on November 13, 2007

I know this is supposed to make me want a robot, but instead it makes me want a toddler.

In fact, I'll take two! One of the gleeful shrieking kind, one of the one that tucked the robot in and then carefully covered its robot feet.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:45 PM on November 13, 2007 [9 favorites]

That Hell Yes video is pretty cool.
posted by pombe at 10:46 PM on November 13, 2007

thehmsbeagle: typically, you get two for the price of one, in that situation, except they're always gleeful and shrieking when you would like them to be calm and sweet, and calm and sweet and shy in situations where you'd prefer them to be outgoing.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:24 PM on November 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

I remember my Kindergarten class being equally fascinated by the Joey Stivic doll we had, back in the day.
posted by teg at 11:25 PM on November 13, 2007

Hype indeed. Haven't these guys ever been to a preschool? Just because they're playing with it as if it is a human doesn't make it a peer... QRIO isn't getting treated any differently than a Bozo Bop Bag would at a preschool, especially if all the adults were paying it so much attention.

Now, if they started trying to form cliques with the robot and shut out the other kids, or starting holding grudges against the robot because it played too much with someone else, that would be more indicative of preschoolers' peer relationships.

The real proof would actually be if they formed a clique and wouldn't let the robot play with them, but everyone wants to be friends with the coolest toy in the room.

If you really want to explore how their generation will be different from its forebears, find out how many of them know what a newspaper is. Take that, Beloit College!
posted by ulotrichous at 11:33 PM on November 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

Robotics researchers fail to understand preschoolers. More at 11.
posted by blacklite at 11:49 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know robots, but I know what I like.
posted by thanatogenous at 11:58 PM on November 13, 2007

QRIO is a terrible name for a robot, but a good name for a gay breakfast cereal.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:17 AM on November 14, 2007 [13 favorites]

From the FPP study Socialization between toddlers and robots at an early
childhood education center
Results indicate that current robot technology is surprisingly close to achieving autonomous bonding and socialization with human toddlers for sustained periods of time and that it could have great potential in educational settings assisting teachers and enriching the classroom environment.
The importance that touch played in our study is reminiscent of Harlow’s experiments [*] with infant macaques raised by artificial surrogate mothers. Based on those experiments, Harlow concluded that "contact comfort is a variable of overwhelming importance in the development of affectional response". Our work suggests that touch integrated on the time-scale of a few minutes is a surprisingly effective index of social connectedness. Something akin to this index may be used by the human brain to evaluate its own sense of social well being.
*More about Harry Harlow's 1958 Nature of Love experiments, with video clip.

Don't even think about these possibilities: we'd do better to listen to the First Law (and forget the other two).

Perhaps robots will be handy someday as hewers of wood and haulers of water, but don't forget what happened to the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Let's avoid any temptation of more technological baby-sitting — as if TV, video games, and computers aren't bad enough — and leave the socialization to real human beings.
posted by cenoxo at 12:31 AM on November 14, 2007

Screw robots. The main thing I took away from this post is that little kids are fucking scary.
posted by brundlefly at 12:58 AM on November 14, 2007

Is it seriously called Queerio?

Heather has two robots.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:58 AM on November 14, 2007

We will know they think the robot is human when they bully it.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 AM on November 14, 2007

We are the robots.
posted by Free word order! at 1:41 AM on November 14, 2007

Is there a LSBO model?
posted by Poolio at 2:30 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think what I want is a robot toddler. I'm too old to parent a real one. Now, if my sister-in-law would get busy and find a husband, maybe we could borrow one occasionally.
posted by Goofyy at 2:30 AM on November 14, 2007

Metafilter: everyone wants to be friends with the coolest toy in the room
posted by Grangousier at 2:52 AM on November 14, 2007

I know the gay robot jokes are fun and all, but I'm fairly certain the name is homophonic to "curio".

Which, of course, opens up some "Buy QRIOs" jokes.
posted by Rocky Dennis Memorial Inner Beauty Pageant at 2:55 AM on November 14, 2007

The teddy bear got no hugs when Queerioo was around. That's wrong. Teddy bears should always get hugs, no matter what. They have to be kept to pass on to grandchildren, they have to be rescued from burning buildings. Even if their eyes fall out or their stuffing starts to show, they have to be fixed, because teddy bears are us.
posted by tellurian at 2:56 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tellurian - The encroaching robot menace is why you should support the right to keep and arm bears, so they can protect themselves.
posted by kcds at 3:38 AM on November 14, 2007

Robot can fill the role of that weird exchange student in the class. Install a different cultural background every three months and let children practice those difficult encounters and acceptance of difference without anyone getting hurt. You fail in class if robot's calculated emotions during semester drop to level of school massacre or suicide bombing.

The education of world citizen is not so much about knowing that 10+9 = 19, but how to behave when someone claims that it is 17. Robots would be great to play that part. In ten years.
posted by Free word order! at 5:13 AM on November 14, 2007 [6 favorites]

Bah. When I was a kid, we had robots mixing drinks! Slowly.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:32 AM on November 14, 2007

Screw robots.

Already on the way.
posted by Kibbutz at 5:50 AM on November 14, 2007

Disgusting, the only thing worse than a robosexual, is a pedo-robosexual!
posted by afu at 6:02 AM on November 14, 2007

I have to agree with anastasiav, except the part about owning a toddler. I am father to a two year-old, and he definitely owns me, not the other way around.
posted by mds35 at 6:26 AM on November 14, 2007

HUAR – Humans United Against Robots – was designed to educate and aware the citizenry of the world the impending attack that computers and robots will put into affect against humans. HUAR is the collection of human beings that spread the word of this opposing doom as well as doing what they can to help minimize the threat.
H.U.A.R. !

Robots will uprise. HUAR will be there.
posted by geekyguy at 7:02 AM on November 14, 2007

The robot was boring (except in the "hell yes" dance clip), but the toddlers melted my heart.

"Night, night." And covering his feet! What sweethearts.

I'm completely out of snark after this.
posted by misha at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2007

I, for one, welcome our new robot toddler overlords.
posted by ewkpates at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2007

This is cute, but do the researchers spend any time watching kids play with other toys? Kids anthropomorphize everything.
posted by autodidact at 8:08 AM on November 14, 2007

I'll just make sure all of my robots are equipped with power cords, so they can't chase me...
posted by tadellin at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2007

i'm with anastasiav. i remember arguing with my stepmother when I was 4 or 5, explaining patiently to her that of course my teddy bear had consciousness.

introduce a really cool doll to toddlers and they react to it like it's a really cool doll. ten points.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2007

Whoa, teg! That Joey Stivic doll is truly weird. Were kids in the 1970s really clamoring for toys based on Norman Lear dramedies? Did they have Bea Arthur shrunken head apple sculpture playsets, as well?
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2007

By the time the experiment ended, the children were treating QRIO as a peer.

By the end of Phase Two, the children were treating QRIO as their overlord. Assimilation was swift. Resistance was met with enforced retirement. Subject QRIO+KIDS acquired networked sentience 0804 hours, contact lost.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:08 AM on November 14, 2007 [5 favorites]

This is cute, but do the researchers spend any time watching kids play with other toys? Kids anthropomorphize everything.

My toddler currently has a unrequited crush on our vacuum, and any other noisy device that catches his attention (leaf blowers, etc). Every night he runs to the closet and kisses it good night.

Some nights he'll be blowing it kisses from down the hall, mournfully calling, "buh bye bacuune!" Cute, but a little demoralizing when our requests for love are soundly rejected with a cheerful "no bah [kiss] mama!"
posted by peep at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2007 [11 favorites]

My daughter does this same kind of stuff to wooden spoons. But I still teared up when Queerio fell down and started wailing, and the toddlers helped it up in defiance of their preschool jailers. There's something that feels wrong about creating a robot that cries like that - that kind of unholy emotional manipulation should be reserved for movies like Stepmom.
posted by missrachael at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2007

Too bad QRIO was discontinued and the remaining QRIO prototypes are to be liquidated.
posted by Justinian at 9:46 AM on November 14, 2007

in retrospect, we should have known that if "kids these days" can adapt to the awfully designed and poorly laidout swill they call "myspace", anything would be possible.

seriously though, i think very little should suprise us when it comes to the degree to how humans are capable of adapting to technology. and given that toddlers are the most adaptable humans...

also, i think that the ways kids adapt to technology (given that tech is truly interactive) is a bit different than the way they form "imaginary friends" and form symbolic or sentimental bonds with inanimate objects such as dolls and wooden spoons.
posted by mano at 10:58 AM on November 14, 2007

oops.... i forgot to mention that FUNZO is FUN! with lots of firepower!
posted by mano at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2007

i had a robot friend growing up. I loved him and he loved me. And I always treated him like he was a real live friend. He didnt have arms and legs, but he had a GREAT big head. through which he showed me all sorts of fabulous things. Like Welcome Back Kotter and reruns of Banacek.

When I got older My robot friend showed me what naked women looked like, but only late at night, and we had to be real quiet.

My robot friend still lives with me, but we don't get along, because one day I realized that he was a dirty stinking liar, and was just hanging around trying to get me to buy stuff. But I keep him around, because now I have a new little robot buddy that listens to all the lies, and only repeats the ones I want to hear. He has a funny robot name too. Tivo. Isn't that cute. One day Tivo will figure out how to trick me, and I'll need another robot to keep him in line.

Or maybe by then, we'll be back to the old ways, and I'll just beat them with sticks whenever FOX news comes on.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

As the father of a robotic toddler, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with your meaty little sweat bags touching my child.

I'd home school him, but I'm afraid that one day I'd come in, after a long day at the factory, and find him humping the vacuum cleaner. Just like his brother.

Such a disappointment.
posted by quin at 3:46 PM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

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