Modern societies have spun the technology wheel at impressive velocities in the last decades. We dismissed cabled phones and noisy 56k modems in my opinion without proper grief.
There was always a new, shiny object to replace the old one. New functionalities, new features and improved hardware led technology closer to normal people. The underline goal was (and still is) to use technology as a tool to improve our lives at work as well as at home.
On the industrial level, the budget balance assessment is the one deciding the ‘life’ of the company. As such, industries have adapted technology to fit their business model.
One interesting approach was taken by automotive manufacturers that quickly understood that a new shiny object like a robot manipulator could greatly improve the cold budgeting numbers. Heavy and bulky robots were introduced in the assembly lines to cope with the demand for new vehicles and the desire to improve the quality of each of them.
In-home environments the development of technology has also contributed to improving our lives. Energy-efficient appliances and home devices connected to the internet are transforming homes into digital homes.
In this environment, I believe that one of the most recent impactful changes was brought by the robot vacuum cleaner. Suddenly, we had a cake-like plastic device that could 1) vacuum the floor and 2) follow our commands. This new tenant attempted to substitute the broom and despite the issues of detecting cables on the floor and not being capable of moving carpets, it is now an established reality.
This type of robot is nowadays capable of verbally communicating its needs and can provide explanations for its behaviours. If the battery is low, the robot will navigate back to its base and verbally state the reason for interrupting the vacuuming session.
This can be seen as a very primitive social robot. Its social skills are not amazing now but will surely improve in the years to come. As a result, a good way for researchers to peek into the future of social robots could be by seeing what industries are currently pushing in the market. Surely, customers can be a source of feedback, even though they might not capture the whole population’s opinion of these devices. Moreover, I’d like to remark that the decisions taken by a profit-driven organization on devices that conduct autonomous social interactions might be prone to introduce (un)intentional biases in the interaction, hence should be analysed with the careful eye of the scientific community.
Overall, societies and evolving hand-to-hand with robots and after the wow effect have collected its glory we should carefully consider boundaries and core elements of these interactions.