Stranger than two robots having sex?

By Joelle Robichaud

“Mommy, I want a pet robot.” To imagine that children everywhere may commonly use this phrase within the next 20 years seems a little far-fetched, but a new generation of robots is being researched that could turn this robotic fantasy into reality. These robots will not resemble your old pet Furby, a rudimentary robot and surprise Christmas hit of 1998 which could learn to say words if you repeated them enough. Instead, they will possess a special feature never used before: robot chromosomes.

Professor Kim Jong-Hwan, a Korean robot guru from the Robot Intelligence Technology lab in Korea, has developed a multitude of types of robots and continues to research artificial life. He claimed to have developed 14 heritable robot chromosomes that will be able to affect a robot’s “personality.”

Personality, you ask? Yes.

Dr. Kim hopes that robot genes, in this case bits of software and not DNA as in humans, will be transferable from robot to robot and thus they will be able to re-create themselves and their personalities. Although the idea may seem unrealistic, he hopes that this could be working within the next 20 years. He articulated the possible benefits of this personality and gene development for the AI generation.

“If you come back to your home after work, the robot will greet you and you can talk to him like a friend,” he explained to the New Zealand Herald.

He also pointed out that this might help people who don’t have anyone to talk to and need a friend around. Friendly robots with personalities can befriend lonely seniors to make them feel more comfortable in the absence of busy health care workers.

But some may ask, what would happen if the robots get out of control? Would we be safe by allowing the robots to “reproduce”? Despite the idea being really cool and all, couldn’t this get out of hand? Some people say it can, but Dr. Kim explained there is no need to worry.

“If we design the chromosomes quite safely, then we can avoid such a bad situation.”

Well, whether you worry about a real-life I, Robot episode or are simply ecstatic with the news that you could one day own your own pet robot, this idea may be developed and could be here within a couple of decades. Let’s just hope they don’t eat our brains.

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