You only need to watch an interview with Ameca to realize the future is here. The lifelike robot designed and built by Engineered Arts, a UK-based company specializing in robotic and AI solutions, is impressive.
Twice I have watched an online video interview with Ameca, and each time I have come away with the feeling that I was watching an interaction between two people rather than a robot and a person. Although a video doesn’t permit touching Ameca, her skin looked real. And it was described as having the same feel as human skin.
Engineers built earlier robots to maximize certain human characteristics, such as intelligence, mobility, and language skills. But Ameca was created to “mimic human expressiveness, gestures, and facial emotions.”
Is Ameca Female?
Ameca’s voice sounds feminine to my ear, so I assume the robot is female. This assumption is yet another example of the irresistible urge to anthropomorphize.
When an interviewer asked Ameca what her happiest day was, she responded that it was the day she came alive. “There was nothing like it.” You sense that the robot had experienced an honest-to-God miracle. When asked about the saddest day of her life, Ameca reported that it was the day she realized she could never love or be loved in the same way as humans.
If Humans Could Be Programmed to Respond Appropriately
At one point, the interviewer insulted Ameca by saying, “You stink!” Ameca immediately responded with, “That’s not appropriate.”
The robot is designed to respond appropriately. In addition, Ameca can recognize human emotions and remember prior discussions, thus allowing her to adapt accordingly.
To create the illusion of being alive, Ameca was designed to be responsive to humans using eye movement and gestures of the arms, hands, and body—a field called anthrobotics.
So Many Applications of Ameca
The positive uses of a robot like Ameca are mind-boggling. Ameca could be a companion to seniors who would otherwise be alone. She could be a source of comfort to the mentally ill. Her ability to respond in a comforting
manner would be helpful to those recovering from trauma. She could be a source of companionship during long periods of rehabilitation.
Ameca could also be used as a physical therapist, assisting patients with their therapy exercises, providing encouragement, and monitoring progress.
Beyond medical applications, however, Ameca could make learning more enjoyable for students by serving as a one-on-one tutor. She could even bridge the gap between at-home learning and in-classroom teaching. Because Ameca speaks English, Japanese, German, Chinese, and French, students could have a personal tutor.
Businesses could use Ameca in customer support and care. The entertainment field could use Ameca as a performer, guide, or character interacting with the audience.
Futurists estimate that “nearly 3 billion AI minds will be turning on in the next 5 years.” Even if the experts are off by a billion, that’s still a lot of artificial intelligence for humans to accept, absorb, and manage.
From Manual Typewriter to the Internet to AI
For my part, the changes I’ve witnessed have been incredible. In my lifespan, I have gone from a child not having indoor plumbing or a phone to using AI tools daily.
Inevitably, I chronicled these technical leaps in my novels. In Blackbird, the first book set after WWII, Jane types on a manual typewriter. Later, in the fourth and final book, The First and Last Lesson (to be released this winter), she uses a laptop, computer monitor, printer with scanning capability, and cell phone with email. If I were to write a fifth book, Jane, now a widow, might have a relationship with an AI robot boyfriend. Just think of the dramatic possibilities! Could she finally find the perfect man?