Lesson of the Day: ‘Should Robots Have a Face?’

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Featured Article: “Should Robots Have a Face?” by Michael Corkery

As automation comes to retail industries, companies are giving machines more humanlike features in order to make them liked, not feared.

In this lesson, you will learn about the growing presence of robots in the workplace and their impact on the human workers around them. In a Going Further activity, you will consider the future of robots in the workplace and design your own robot.

When you hear the word robot what do you imagine?

Do you envision something futuristic and otherworldly — or humanlike? Is your picture of a robot fantastical and perhaps a little frightening, or is it familiar and comforting?

Take a few moments to sketch your general image of a robot. Afterward, share it with a partner or the whole class.

6. What does the birthday party for the robot Marty illustrate about the coexistence of humans and robots in the workplace? Does the article make you more optimistic about the increasing role of robots in the workplace? What concerns do you have?

Choose one or more of the following activities:

1) Share your opinion.

2) What’s your favorite robot in pop culture?

There have been many memorable depictions of robots throughout history in pop culture, literature, films and television shows — robots like WALL-E, R2-D2 and C-3PO? Which is your favorite and why? Which fictional robot would you most like to work or spend time with? Which do you find most scary?

3) Design your own robot.

Your robot can be practical or fantastical, but be creative and have fun. For your design, keep in mind both form and function:

  • Form: What will your robot look like? Will it be futuristic, weird or friendly? Will it look like an inkjet printer with a long neck with eyes like Marty? Or will it have more humanlike features? How will your robot’s appearance influence how people interact with it? What materials will it be made out of? Why?

  • Function: What is the purpose of your robot? What specific functions will it carry out? Will it do practical tasks such as unloading boxes, detecting spills and scanning shelves for out-of-stock items, like some of the robots featured in the article? Or will it provide personal assistance, companionship — or even love?

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