Building Social Robots

Can’t find anyone to hang out with? Maybe you should invite a robot into your home. In this segment, Ira and guests talk about developing robots with personalities — moving on beyond the mechanical arms found in today’s factories, to devices that could interact with people on a social level. Some of us already anthropomorphize our robotic assistants — who hasn’t called the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner ‘cute?’ Inventors are working to develop devices that can interact with people on a deeper level, however: communicating, responding to emotion, and operating under specific rules of social behavior. How soon will it be before social, lovable robots enter our homes?

We’ll also hear from inventor Dean Kamen about the results of FIRST, a worldwide robotics competition for young inventors. An alliance of three teams from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, Greenville, Texas, and Sterling Heights, Michigan won this year’s championships, held last weekend.

Segment Guests

Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen is the founder and president of DEKA Research and Development, as well as the founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition. He’s based in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Helen Greiner

Helen Greiner is a co-founder of iRobot and currently CEO of CyPhyWorks, a start-up company specializing in small multi-rotor drones for the consumer, commercial and military markets. She’s based in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Peter McOwan

Peter McOwan is a Professor of Computer Science in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London.

Meet the Producer

About Molly Webster

Molly Webster is a producer and guest host of WNYC’s Radiolab in New York, New York.