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Inside the 'Magic Lab' where robots learn how to manipulate our emotions

George Nott | July 5, 2017
Researchers are giving bots human-like social abilities to help them live and work among us

“There’ll be robots that you’ll have one interaction with that you’ll never see again. Like people. Do you want them all to know who you are?”

Researchers have also posed as robots – with convincing costumes and movements – to test the public’s reaction to greetings from high-fives to hugs.


A new philosophy

If the future is anything like that seen in science fiction from Short Circuit to Humans to I, Robot, physical bots will one day be living and working among us.

Developing their social and emotional abilities is crucial work, and UTS' commercial collaborators – which includes Ernst and Young, Telstra, Cisco, Google and IBM – are keeping a close eye on developments. The likes of Nobel Prize Committee member Peter Gärdenfors and Apple co-founder Steve 'The Woz' Wozniak sit on the research board.

“Robotics is the new psychology. It’s the new philosophy. You can’t do this kind of work without a robot because it requires enormous experimentation and getting robots out there interacting with people,” says Williams.

“Psychologists are not doing this work. And philosophers are talking about robot ethics, but unless they’re actually working with real robots posing real philosophical dilemmas…these are very abstract questions. When you play with an actual robot those questions change dramatically and become a lot more interesting.”


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