Robots - The Exciting New Normal.
From MIT Insider.
Disney has provided an insight into the future of its theme parks, where robotic versions of its iconic characters could soon walk among guests.
The entertainment firm discussed plans to embrace brand new technologies at SXSW 2017, where it also showed off footage of a robot Pascal, the lizard from Tangled.
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As if the thought of an enormous, roaming robot Mickey Mouse wasn’t disconcerting enough, Disney also confirmed that artificial intelligence will allow its robots to interact with people. “I think AI and machine learning is going to be very important for what we do,” Jon Snoddy, Disney’s senior vice president for research and development, told the BBC.
“Things like characters that can move around among our guests. They’re going to need to understand where they’re going, have goals, and they’re going to have to know how to navigate in a world with humans.”
However, the company is also aware of some of the fear surrounding AI, and Mr Snoddy added that Disney will carry out tests to ensure its creations make a positive impression on fans.“Obviously we’re not the business of scaring kids!” he continued. “That won’t be part of what we deploy. We go and do tests in our parks to gauge the reaction and try and understand what kids find entertaining about these things.”

JIBO, a Social Robot for the Home.
"JIBO's potential extends far beyond engaging in casual conversation and completing daily tasks." - Katie Couric, Yahoo News
"A Robot with a Little Humanity" - John Markoff, New York Times
"JIBO isn't an appliance, it's a companion, one that can interact and react with its human owners in ways that delight instead of disturb." - Lance Ulanoff, Mashable
"Move over, Siri, the JIBO robot is coming" - Maggie Lake, CNN
"This Friendly Robot Could One Day Be Your Family's Personal Assistant" - Christina Bonnington, WIRED



Gatebox, Virtual Assistant.
From Fortune.
A Japanese company called Gatebox is taking pre-orders for a new breed of virtual assistant. While Alexa and Google Home are a bit lacking in the personality department, Gatebox users get to interact with a 3-D anime character called Azumi Hikari. She’s being pitched as both a handy helper—and a pseudo-girlfriend.
Yes, it’s icky (kimoi in Japanese). But it’s more than that. The Gatebox encapsulates (literally) the social isolation that has strangled Japan’s once-vibrant economy.
If that sounds like a stretch, just look at the bleak promotional video Gatebox released last Tuesday. It begins as a Gatebox/Hikari wakes a young man, informs him of the weather, and gets him to work on schedule. So far so good—though there’s a hint of something weird when he turns to tell her/it goodbye.Things get really depressing, though, as the Gatebox/Hikari texts the young man throughout the day (it includes a chatbot), even encouraging him longingly to “Come home early.” When he finally calls it a day, he’s sure to let “her” know, and she replies with an excited “Yay!”

Finally, as he lies down to sleep, the young man shares his true feelings with the appliance. “You know, while I was on my way home, I thought—it feels great that someone’s waiting for me.”It would be easy to laugh at the limited-release Gatebox as an overpriced ($2,500!) toy for alienated, anime-obsessed nerds. But in Japan, the alienation that would make a lonely, overworked young man reach out to a robot for companionship is endemic.
In 2005, a staggering 72% of Japanese men under 30 had never been married. In America, the 2005 rate of unmarried 20-somethings was just 49%, though it had increased to 64% by 2014. Within 20 years, 1/3 of all Japanese men are expected to be single for their entire lives.