Given that various groups of academic researchers (and others) are already investigating the torture of robots, and that these procedures raise ethical questions [See previous posts on this topic.] We now turn to the question of how robots might express the levels of ‘pain’ to which they are exposed. Clearly they must be able to do so in order for the torturer to appreciate the effects of his/her work. For answers we return to Dr. Christoph Bartneck (who co-organised the Milgram-esque experiment we described earlier.
Along with colleagues Flip van den Berg, Carlijn Compen, Arne Wessel, and Bas Groenendaal, Dr. Bartneck produced a short video entitled ‘Cats & Dogs’ which showed AIBO ® and iCat ® which had been especially programmed to ‘express levels of pain’. The video, presented as part of the Proceedings of the 2nd ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, can be viewed here [Quicktime .mov format may require browser plugin]
[Advisory : Not suitable for those with a sensitive disposition towards robots]
In the future, say the experimenters :
“Robots will not only need to be able to provide positive feedback, but also negative. This project explored the abilities of the robotic dog Aibo and the iCat robot to express pain. For two different robots 30 different levels of pain expressions were designed and tested. The results showed that participants are able to recognize small differences in pain expressions. The movie shows several representative expressions.”
BONUS: Dr. Bartneck is also author of The Unofficial LEGO® Minifigure Catalog.