Thanks to Saman Amirpour for forwarding me the Supertoy Teddy Bear kickstarter campaign. The first quote is nearly the best:
“I love my Supertoy Teddy. We talk all the time and he’s become one of my best friends” Esther aged 8.
One frightening aspect of our robot future is precisely how the most adaptable amongst us- children- will relate to interactive devices that do their very best to feign emotion and friendship, and the degree to which this might change childrens’ expectations about social discourse. It is particularly interesting from the marketing side to consider for-profit companies creating best friends. What if all your friends were paid to be your friends, and profited particularly by ensuring that you drink Gerolsteiner water, not that Italian brand? Our societies don’t even have the tools to judge and consider such human-robot interaction systems- even in the context of very young children. Sure, we have consumer protection bureaus and safety organizations. The bears will not electrocute anyway. But we do not really look at adverse psycho-social consequences of non-human friendships. No committees or laws for that one.
By the way, you can make your own Best Friend Teddy Bear if their app happens to be free. Just download their app to your own smartphone, go find a teddy bear in your attic, cut a hole in it and push your smartphone in. Voila.