The BBC has again cancelled its Robot Wars TV show.
While the idea of making robots fight each other gladiator style is not one we love (we say please and thank you to our Alexa) the cancellation of any show which puts robots front and centre has to be lamented.
This is extremely sad news coming out of the USA.
A woman has been involved in an accident with a self driving vehicle and she has unfortunately passed away.
Robots are moving further into the workplace with the announcement of ‘Flippy’ the burger making machine arriving in restaurants in the USA.
Watch the BBC report here.
“It’ll murder me in my sleep,” is Frank’s (Frank Langella) first response to receiving a robot from his son in this light-hearted movie directed by Jake Schreier.
Set in the near future The Robot and Frank shows us a world where older people with memory problems can have a 24/7 companion, allowing their family who live far away to know there is some support on hand.
The film explores the parameters of this relationship and the robot tells Frank early on that he meeds a project. With initial attempts to bond being around planting a vegetable patch.
What actually gets them to bond is planning a burglary. Frank explains to the robot teaching it to pick locks is the hobby he needs.
The comparison of robot to human care is telling. Frank’s son and daughter live far away and when Madison (Liv Tyler) does visit, she doesn’t always want to do what Frank wants, while the robot has no other needs or agenda. Even the most giving human is not 100 pet cent altruistic.
There are some interesting insights into legal aspects of robots. And I don’t just mean it doesn’t come preprogrammed to not collude in criminal activity with the human it supports. But Frank cannot switch it off as its owner is his son Hunter (James Marsden) who has said he does not have user rights to do this. The machines memory can also be accessed by law enforcement, although I would assume a warrant was required, but this is not made clear – and the police seemed able to search Frank’s house on circumstancial evidence, with the victim of the crime present, with no mention of a judge considering the issue.
The movie touches on the politics of robots, notably when the machine asks if Madison is against robot labour.
One thing I thought robots who are used in health / social care settings should be programmed to request is a name. We wouldn’t give someone a pet and expect them not to name the animal. Susan Sarandon, the librarian in the film, has a work place robot she has named Mr Darcey. Part of the bonding with the support robot would be selecting a name.
Finding a project and keeping a routine are both vital for older people, particulary those with memory issues, any occupational therapist can tell you. But having someone on hand to help you keep to the project and routine will be priceless.
The film is not perfect, but it does raise a number of issues we will face in the near future in an accessible way.
The Robot and Frank can be purchased from Amazon:
Have you heard of Kuri? She is currently only available in the USA (I don’t live in that territory so can’t yet buy one).
Find out about her here.
She speaks only in beeps, or as I like to think of it, R2D2 speak.
If you have a Kuri please let us know what she is like in the comments – and if she is worth purchasing when she is available in the territory where I live.