During a recent international meeting in Korea numerous dignitaries posed for the global press standing next to, or shaking hands with, a robot equipped with a head that really looked like Albert Einstein. When my wife saw one of the photos it triggered a long discussion (debate?) over "What is a robot anyway?"
Frankly, I'm not sure - though I would never let my wife know that. Where do we draw the line. Is an automated vacuum cleaner like Roomba what we mean by the term 'robot'? How about the numerous microcomputers and local area network in your car - is that a 'robot'? How about an elevator in a major skyscraper?
How much intelligence, how much mobility, and how much functionality has to be designed into a device before we feel comfortable referring to it as a 'robot?'
I've seen numerous situations where a young child goes up to a robot like Wakamaru, touches it, caresses it, and treats it just like it was the child's mother. And, in private moments when no one is around to notice, I have even been known to talk to some of my robots. Scary thing is, sometimes I think they really understand me . . .
Flash animation created by Tempusmaster for the Anime Dreams weblog