User Potential Unlimited - The joint lecture series of the ITC Faculty

User Potential Unlimited - and interdisciplinary lecture series on user research and accessibility was organized by the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences during the autumn 2019. The lecture series was very successful and raised also interest among the students on different fields, as it was possible to earn 2-5 credits by participating the lectures and writing an assignment about the topics. We want to express our wamest thanks to the organizers, speakers and participants. Here, one of the students' assignments is being published - have a look and enjoy some thoughts about the robotic future!

Robots for all your needs – written and illustrated by Tiia Tikka

On one of the lectures of the User Potential Unlimited course, Aino Ahtinen told us about an interesting project where a robot called Elias was placed in a school to teach children languages. The children were quite happy, and although there were some technical difficulties, the test was a success. Perhaps in the future some teachers will be replaced by robot teachers. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn from robots and they didn’t start, say, a violent uprising?

There is a robot on the market that resembles a cross between a cat and a pillow. It has a little tail that it waggles when pet, and it also makes catlike sounds. It is advertised to people who are allergic to cats or too busy to have an actual cat. It is supposed to spark joy and feel like an animal companion, but people often find it uncanny and pretty weird overall. Then again, it might be useful for severely allergic or lonely people.

If we combine these two ideas, we have a robofriend. It chats with you, maybe helps with household chores and you never have to have real human contact ever again! As technology advances, we could have different robots to complete different tasks. As of now, we have roombas and robot lawnmowers, but surely we can teach robots to do anything mechanical better than us humans. Maybe we won’t even need several robots anymore, but one multifunctional roboservant that we can even forge an emotional connection with. We even have some AIs or programs that use voice recognition today. It doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea, that in the future we could chat with our robot butler and receive intelligible answers.

Perhaps these future prospects will be successful, and a new robot race will form and gain intelligence and hopefully not destroy the humanity. On the other hand, it could be seen as a danger to only hang out with your robot friends and become a social recluse from the human world. With the evolution of technology, new moral questions are raised. If robots become intelligent, should they receive same rights as us humans? Should the poor robocatpillows be freed and be able to lead their robolives rolling in the streets?