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Stopping Robot Abuse

Just got back from HRI 2018, and there were tons of interesting papers. One written up here:

Is about how a robot can help children learn to stop abusing it. In addition to teaching children some civility, it seems like it would also do wonders for the longevity of the robot.

What kinds of behaviors could a misty perform to send the signal that it didn’t like what was being done to it?


First off, super jealous you got to got to HRI (one day I’ll make it).
Second, I remember seeing this video about kids harassing this robot and it got me thinking about how if we made say, street cleaning robots or park cleaning robots, what types of self-defense mechanisms would be proper or allowed. Let’s say a kid is bugging a porcupine or a skunk, if they get quilled or sprayed will anyone think the animal was at fault? Would robots in active society be given permission to defend themselves using non-lethal means such as unpleasant odors or strobe blinding light? Perhaps we make their physical appearance unappealing as to deter unwanted interactions, a fun thought indeed. Looking at the KnightScope and how people react to something that is meant to be intimidating it almost has the opposite effect.
Perhaps Misty could just retreat, or constantly turn/shy away from an unwanted interaction like kids do sometimes. My kids love to shake Cozmo to pieces, and it seems the size of Misty doesn’t guarantee that type of thing from happening to it as well even if its “unwanted”. Maybe Misty could fein death (like an Opossum) and “shut down” for a timeout period.


Yeah, that video is from work presented at HRI 2015, so this new work seems a clear successor.

I’m tickled by the concept of a robot being able to drop stink bombs, or electrify it’s outer layer in order to scare people off. But I don’t think society is ready for that to happen.

For the animals (porcupine, skunk, etc), there’s this concept of ‘Don’t blame the animal for being an animal’ - I.e - they can’t help themselves, so if you get quilled or sprayed, it’s your own fault. But since robots are designed systems, I don’t think there’s a corresponding ‘robots will be robots.’ Any negative interaction will be reflected back on the robot designer (“why did your robot spray my child?”)

Playing dead, or shutting off might be the best option. Although I think if we can get the robot to be expressive and empathetic enough, displaying fear might be helpful as well.