The Real Transformers

Researchers are building robots that learn in humanlike ways and show humanlike traits. Will this result in robot consciousness — and a better understanding of ourselves?

I was introduced to my first sociable robot on a sunny afternoon in June.

The robot, developed by graduate students at the Massachesetts Institute of Technology, was named Mertz.

It had camera sensors behind its eyes, which were programmed to detect faces; when it found mine, the robot was supposed to gaze at me directly to initiate a kind of conversation.

But Mertz was on the fritz that day, and one of its designers, a dark-haired young woman named Lijin Aryananda, was trying to figure out what was wrong with it. Mertz was getting fidgety, Aryananda was getting frustrated and I was starting to feel as if I were peeking behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz.

Source:  New York Times magazine — July 29

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