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Social Robotics: Four Scenarios

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This past weekend, Houston Foresight colleague Ciara O’Connell and I presented Social Robotics: Four Scenarios at the World Future Society‘s annual Conference, World Future 2016. Our presentation was part of the University of Houston’s Next Gen Foresight Grads session on Saturday, July 23, 2016.

Social Robotics: Four Scenarios looks at the field of social robotics, which involves robots with social and emotional capabilities. The presentation is a distillation of research Ciara and I conducted with Karen Jacobs, another student in the Houston program. In our work, we applied Houston’s framework foresight scanning and trending methods, and then developed four future scenarios using an application of the Global Business Network’s 2×2 matrix.

My personal interest in the social robotics space came out of my research in artificial intelligence and the suggestion made by some theorists that true intelligence or self consciousness could only arise if an intelligence were embodied, which of course led to robots, and then to the emerging new field of social robotics. It occurred to me that social robotics may in fact be the killer app for AI. Taking this initial interest, our team uncovered additional insights and synthesized our research into four compelling scenarios.

Here is our presentation:

These four scenarios are possible futures that depend on investment and development variables in the space, as well as market factors. Social robotics is likely to remain an exciting field for some time, and we’re pulling for the more democratic Ro-Buddies scenario in which everyone has their own personal robotic pal.

Thanks to Ciara and Karen for bringing so much insight and hard work to this research. Thanks also to Andy Hines of Houston Foresight, our professor and champion, as well as to the WFS for a nice conference.

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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