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The emotional connection a child can have with a robot

by on December 4, 2012

As I mentioned in the lecture ive currently been reading an Isaac Asimov collection of short stories dealing with robots called The Complete Robot (I really Recommend it) while reading it I noticed a trend which actually is something that exists in real life which is children’s emotional connection with robots.

The first case of this is in a story called a boys best friend which tells the story of Jimmy a young boy with a robot dog called Robutt. Jimmy lives on the moon which his family and has no other friends besides this dog which is supposedly programmed to love him. He plays with the dog all day every day and has real special bond with it. One day Jimmy’s Father tells Jimmy that he has bought him a real dog so Jimmy no longer needs Robutt. This greatly upsets Jimmy as he is convinced that Robutt loves him as much as he loves Robutt. His dad tries to explain to him that the dog will really love him and that Robutt is just programmed to act like he loves him Jimmy then replies that they don’t know what goes inside the dog or how the dog feels he asks “how do we know that the dog isn’t just acting too?” he then continues to say what’s the difference in how they act? How about how I feel? I love Robutt and that’s what counts.” I found this a particularly interesting idea as if a child loves a robot, to the child that robot has just as much value as a living creature.

another example of this is found in Asimov’s story Robbie. This story is similar to ‘A Boys Best Friend’ but it deals with the friendship between a little girl named Gloria and her robot companion Robbie. In this story Gloria’s father has bought his daughter this robot and she loves it so much that she stops playing with her human friends, her mother becomes concerned with this and forces her father to get rid of the robot. Gloria becomes distraught when she loses Robbie and dispute her parents best efforts becomes extremely depressed and spends all her time looking for him and its not until her father re-unites them a year later that Gloria becomes happy again. I just find it fascinating that children seem to grow such a deep connection with robots perhaps because they believe the objects will never die.

I find it particularly fascinating as when i was a child I had a Robosapien toy see the link below if you dont know what it is:

http://www.wowwee.com/en/products/toys/robots/robotics/robosapiens/robosapien

although this is obviously not like the robots in the sci-fi stories as its mostly remote controlled i remember as a child feeling some connection with it and i know i took it everywhere with me I wonder why children find such a deep connection in robots perhaps its something to do with having control over the robot. For a child its like having a friend you will never fall out with and will never die. I’m not 100% sure what causes such a strong connection with children and robots, but i do find it fascinating and in the next 20 or so years I’m sure we’ll see the extent it will reach.

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