Everybody knows robots can't love. It is their greatest failing as human analogues, their most profound tragedy as thinking entities and possibly their ultimate undoing (depending on whether or not they're facing the Care Bears that day). But science doesn't like to be told what they can, can't or just plain shouldn't do, so they're giving it a shot anyway: Here are five robots intended to either feel human emotions, inspire human emotions, or through their actions otherwise care for us in our hours of need.
Notice I say that's what they're “intended for.” All they actually do is murder the part of your mind responsible for registering danger, so that you will never feel safe again.
Robots That Teach Us How to Love
People in Japan don't like to have sex. That might come as a surprise to you if you live basically anywhere else in the world as, from an outsider's perspective, it seems like everything they export is actively trying to rape everything else they export. But it's true: They just don't. They have one of the lower birth rates in the world, and it's estimated that only 34 percent of Japanese couples have sex on a weekly basis which… actually explains everything about Japan perfectly, come to think of it.
So what are they doing to fight it? Manufacturing new and presumably jellyfish flavored aphrodisiacs? Offering classes in the art of love-making? Perhaps just focusing more on the effectiveness of fertility drugs, so that what twisted, crying, tentacle-based biannual sex does occur will result in more babies?
Nope, none of the above! The answer is somehow robots. Terrifying, terrifying robots:
This is Yotaro, and aside from drifting through the vast emptiness of space, devouring the life-force of all planets he stumbles across, he's also meant to help combat the low birth rate problem in Japan. But… how? Anybody with a strong opinion and a girlfriend can tell you that make-up sex happens, but is fearsex a thing? Are the inventors hoping to terrify young males so much that the blood will flee from their heads, occupy their boners, and try to hide inside the nearest vagina?
According to Hiroki Kunimura, the inventor of Yotaro, that hideous monstrosity up there is meant to “trigger human emotions, so humans want to have their own baby.”
Listen, man: That logic only works if you subscribe to the belief that the only thing that can kill a baby is another baby, and you're hoping the citizens of Japan will start procreating solely to build a wave of toddlers that will swarm over and destroy Yotaro by sheer numbers alone.
"YES. MORE JUICE. OBEY THE SADISTIC WHIMS OF YOTARO."
Also, please notice the phrasing in Mr. Kunimura's quote: “Trigger human emotions… so humans want…” Notice at no point does he say “we” or “ours” – he says “human” and “humans,” as though he is totally disconnected from our species. When the tsunami of babies finally jams Yotaro's Flesh Harvesting Core and this terrible apocalypse is at last averted, just try to act surprised when Hiroki Kunimura rips off his mask to reveal another glowing, dead-eyed porcelain moonface and starts sweeping his sonic deathscreams over the gathered crowd.
Robots That Take Care of Us
The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have built a robot named Taizo; a machine capable of crossing cultural barriers… in that he terrifies people afraid of unearthly robots equally as much as those with a phobia of inhuman clowns.
"I've got it! What if we combined all the lovableness of clowns, with the unblinking stare of a shark?"
Also, he's meant to be used by old people. That's right: At last there's a robot for the demographic that's afraid of remote controls and simply “doesn't trust the look” of the TiVo. And to help further set their minds at ease, they built it to look like the mascot from Jack in the Box commercials forgot to take his antipsychotics right before his limbs were possessed by invisible demonic puppeteers.
Taizo is meant to “lead the elderly in exercise,” and that's… actually really brilliant: Cardio is important, and there's not a senior citizen on Earth who wouldn't run full sprint--hip integrity be damned--the second that thing starts demanding that you kneel before it in its high-pitched little girl voice.
Oh, and though the Taizo does most of its movement from that special little chair, the NIAIST wanted you to know that it can stand up, it just doesn't. And with that bit of information, the process is complete--Taizo meets every criteria for a creepy pedophile perfectly: It's dressed like a clown; it won't ever stop smiling; it intently watches with a dead, unblinking stare while you stretch and bend over; and for some reason--even though it is completely capable of standing--it doesn't want to get up from its unsettling little chair.
Don't make me spell it out for you.
(It's a boner. The clown robot is hiding a boner.)
Robots That Rescue Us When We're in Trouble
The Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot, or BEAR for short, is built to carry wounded troops in inaccessible areas away to safety without further risking human life. The U.S. military put serious consideration into this design, carefully crafting a head that would put already traumatized soldiers at ease. And what comforts tough military men wounded in the heat of battle?
Specifically, giant steel Teddy Bears with no fur. Giant steel Teddy Bears with alien features and whirring, double-jointed spider legs instead of soft, comforting fur.
OK, maybe I'm being unfair here; that thing's not so bad. The airbrushed plastic quality of the rounded body and lack of obvious gears could really help to make an otherwise intimidating robot seem a little more harmless. Let's look at another photograph, maybe something not from the promotional stills this time:
Oh. It seems as though they've removed every single aspect of the design that serves to soften the terror. But why? Maybe it's somehow less disconcerting in person. Maybe if you see it in action…
Jesus! That's the exact body language and facial expression you adopt when you've been caught doing something you really, really shouldn't. That, combined with the fact that it's holding an unconscious, wounded soldier in its arms - it looks like it's trying to decide whether to eat him or fuck him. I'm not sure which option would be worse…
OK. It's definitely the fucking. The fucking is worse.
Robots That Can Feel
The iCub, an open-source robot officially funded by the EU, is more of a platform for robotic learning than a specific, task-based machine. And on that platform sits a bug-eyed chihuahua, the creepy child from any horror movie that “just wants to play” and the uncaring bare steel skeleton of the Terminator.
The iCub is (and keep in mind that, though the emphasis is mine, the following words are all from the inventors themselves) designed to be "capable of locomotion, interaction and language learning, track objects visually or even by sound, learn emotionally like a child, predictwhere objects will be next, develop more complex behaviors and how certain objects are best manipulated,” and finally--I shit you not here--“the most key skill [it] needs… is an ability to reach towards a fixed point… to reach outwards and close its fingers around an object.”
You want to tell me that's just harmless object-interaction learning and not a child-like steel strangulation machine? Then explain why it's reaching for you in every...
If you don't immediately recognize that as the body language for “impending murder,” then congratulations! You've just qualified to sign up for the iCub Beta program. Be sure your home is equipped with plenty of stairs and ramps so the iCub can "interact" with you eye-to-eye, and remember to disconnect all phone lines so as to not to interfere with the delicate robot's computers. Oh, and no need to sign up or submit your address, it will get to you eventually. Probably in the shower. Just after the lights mysteriously go out.
Look at that thing: Even it knows that it should not be.
I will give you all a moment to digest what you've just seen, possibly scream for a bit, send your children to the neighbor's house, pour yourself three fingers of scotch, purchase a firearm and periodically place it in your mouth while sobbing uncontrollably, desperately searching for the strength within yourself to pull the trigger.
Then let's continue: Ishiguro says he built the Repliee R-1 to “study human behavior in reacting to robots,” and to see what happens when “people meet the uncanny valley.” So in other words, he built it to be disturbing as hell on purpose, and wants little more than to see what you'd look like all curled up in the fetal position, and covered in urine. Now, I could throw my stupid words at you for hours in an attempt to truly convey the Sistine Chapel of Horribleness that Professor Ishiguro has wrought here, but really, you should just look at some photos from the press release:
Look at the expression she's giving him; it's like a combination of hunger, jealousy and longing. That is the obviously the last time anybody saw this man alive.
And here it is, having just finished hollowing out somebody's daughter, and preparing to make its home in the husk – like a Hermit Crab of Murder.