Momo the Robot greeted everyone arriving at the Futurice office, waving his arms in the air. He must have been just as excited to hear all about robots and humanity as the rest of the attendees! The event was all about discussing and diving further into the social impacts of the ever-developing field of robotics. In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of what went on.
Minja Axelsson, a robotics designer from Futurice, spoke about designing social robots with a user-centered and ethical focus. She took the stage to explain further about her research on robots teaching sign language to autistic children, the methodology of her study and her cross-disciplinary approach to robotics. “Technology allows us to do want we want, so we should encourage people to work in an ethical manner,” Axelsson explained when asked if she remains optimistic about the future of robotics. “Rapid prototyping of high-end technology for people who actually need it is possible, and this way we can really make an impact.”
She also shed some light on Momo’s story. Momo is actually an open-source InMoov robot originally created by French sculptor Gaël Langevin, and available for printing and building for basically anybody who feels like it and has access to the required tools. Momo was used in Axelsson’s study with autistic children, and also demonstrated some sign language skills during her speech. You can follow Momo’s adventures on Instagram (@momotherobot) if you’re interested in knowing more.
The second speaker of the evening was robot master, entrepreneur and consultant Cristina Andersson who spoke about the future of robots and humans. She believes that at some point robots will be bigger than the internet, as they are evolving so fast and learning new things as we speak. According to Andersson, a few years ago it was impossible for a robot to grab a tomato without squashing it, and now it’s really no big deal. She spoke about robots being a comforting presence for lonely elderly people, actual machines that can be used to accomplish any kind of predefined goal.
And while people tend to think that there’s nothing new in robots, Andersson brought up the fact that robots are no longer single-task machines, they can work in multiple environments, they are able to learn, and nowadays they are even working in positions where they interact directly with people.
“We don’t want robots to replace people, we want them to help us,” Andersson explained. She quoted robotics physicist Mark W. Tilden, saying, “Robots won’t just change our lives in the future, they’ll expand them. Not just for fun, but for necessity. We’ve taken the first steps into welcoming them into our homes, we just have to wait a bit to proctor them into making us more human.” During the discussion part of the evening questions were raised about the possibility of robots helping humans battle global warming and other similar issues. According to Andersson, robots can, for example, explore the bottom of the ocean where humans cannot go, and they are already being used to clean oceans from plastic and other harmful waste.
Overall, the night was a fascinating deep dive into the world of robotics from quite an ethical perspective. We shall see if maybe in the future Momo, or some other robot that happens to be present, could be the one taking notes for a blog post. From what we learned during the evening, the thought doesn’t feel that foreign at all.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to see all upcoming Future Female events and as usual, remember to be quick with the sign-ups! Stay tuned for more information.
Blog is written by Caitlin Baran