After designing her first robot costume, nine-year-old Carter B. offered to help me out with another contribution to my series of robotics startup profiles for Robotics Business Review. In our brief chat, Carter gives us a low-tech look at the future of human-robot interactions that hits upon several key problems that experts in the field have identified, from the uncanny valley, machine learning, and natural language processing to soft robotics and energy storage.
When’s the first time you ever saw a robot?
When I was a tiny, tiny little girl.
What kind of robot was it?
One of the costumes that people wear that make you really hot. It was like a plush toy robot, with all these colored lines. It was grey. It looked like a TV with a torso and legs.
What inspired your robot design today?
Boxes. I think of robots as being boxy. Because of Minecraft; the people in Minecraft make me think of robots. They walk like robots, they don’t look like humans. They’re like, boxy, made out of tiny little squares.
When I first saw the boxes, I thought of making something to slide down the hill on, like a box sled, but then I thought, no I should make a robot.
So, first I put the boxes in groups. Two that were the same, another two that were the same, and then I thought, well, these ones are big, I’ll make them the feet, these are not as big, and should be the arms. This one is kind of big, pretty big, like the Minecraft people’s heads, so it should be the head.
Is this your first robot costume?
It kind of is. I’ve stepped in boxes and used them as feet and arms before, but nothing this elaborate.
Why are robots interesting to you?
They’re so futuristic. They’re all wires and plastic and things. Yeah, but robots are really cool. They can talk to you. They can, like, they can do things without you moving them.
Would you like to have your own robot? Why?
Yes. To hang up my towels. I would also have it dress me, wake me up, make my bed. Choose what I’m going to wear. I’d have it give me advice.
It would be good because it’s not like a human. It wouldn’t tell other people. If I had to ask them something secret, you know, that I didn’t want anyone else to know, I could just ask it, and it wouldn’t talk to anyone else about it.
It would be a private robot. It would hang out with the other robots, but it wouldn’t gossip about me. I’d just be like, don’t tell anyone else what I say unless I command you to. For the first part of the time, I’d have to tell it what to do. I’d have to train it. Like a dog.
What kinds of things?
How to talk. How to communicate with humans in a non-confusing and understandable way. I’d just have to figure out how to do it myself.
What would it look like?
It would be pink. It would be my mom’s height. It would be a motherly robot. It would look not like a human, because that would be creepy. It would be really really really soft. Fluffy. And pink.
Kind of like the monsters from Monsters Inc.?
What’s the first robot you’ll have?
It’ll be like a helper, a maid or something. Cleaning, make some food. It has to walk around and talk and everything. Talking and walking and being able to move things, like opening a door, are very important.
What’s the scariest thing about having a robot?
Having them break or get wet. Having them die, like, lose power and just fall down.
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