The Robot With Heart

If treated with affection, "He" becomes limp, "his" breathing and heartbeat relax, and "his" eyelids lower, reported The Daily Telegraph. "He" is a flexible plastic machine called the Heart Robot.

If "He" is shaken or yelled at, he flinches. His eyes go wide, his heart and breathing speed up, and his hands clench.

Why was he constructed? The Heart Robot was designed to find out how humans behave with an apparently emotional machine. At the University of the West of England in Bristol, scientists developed the thing as a half robot, half puppet. It has a red "heart" on its left side, which beats at variable rates.

Holly Cave described the child-sized machine to The Daily Telegraph in late July 2008 as looking "like a cross between ET and Gollum...." Cave assisted in organizing an Emotibots event at London's Science Museum. She revealed childrens' varying reactions. Some wanted to be affectionate, while others wanted to frighten the Heart Robot.

As Cave made clear, many questions will be raised about the future interactions of humans and robots.

Another Emotibot is less prepossessing than the Heart Robot. Invented by Matt Denton, iC Hexapod is a lot more frightening. It has six legs like a tarantula, and a small camera where its head should be. It too reacts to human emotions, drawing away when approached too closely. The television camera is linked to face recognition software and it feeds the robot's view to a monitor screen. It too was on display at the Science Museum's Antenna Gallery.

— Douglas Chapman


Space Daily (via AFP),, 7/30/08

Ananova,, 7/31/08

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