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Undiscovered Presents: I, Robovie. Sept 11, 2018.

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A decade ago, psychologists introduced a group of kids to Robovie, a wide-eyed robot who could talk, play, and hug like a pro. And then, the researchers did something heartbreaking to Robovie! They wanted to see just how far kids’ empathy for a robot would go. What the researchers didn’t gamble on was just how complicated their own feelings for Robovie would get. Annie and Elah explore the robot-human bond. Subscribe to Undiscovered HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts



I Spy, And The Closet

A fifteen-year-old study participant plays a game of I Spy with Robovie—and then watches as the robot is ordered into the closet. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.) 



A 15-year-old study participant meets Robovie for the first time. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.)


Robovie and a 9-year-old study participant talk about the ocean. (Video courtesy of the HINTS lab at the University of Washington. Read the full study.)


Xavier Buys A Cup Of Coffee

A robot named Xavier orders coffee at the kiosk in Carnegie Mellon’s computer science building. (Video courtesy of Yasushi Nakauchi. Read the study about how Xavier does it.)



Peter Kahn, professor of psychology, and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington, and leader of the HINTS lab

Rachel Severson, assistant professor of psychology, University of Montana

Nathan Freier, principal program manager, Microsoft

Ryan Germick, principal designer, Google Doodles & Assistant Personality



Read the Robovie study: “Robovie, You’ll Have to Go into the Closet Now”: Children’s Social and Moral Relationships With a Humanoid Robot”

Read about how Xavier stands in line.

Check out the work of Robovie’s creators, roboticists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Takayuki Kanda.

People did not want to hit Frank the robot bug with a hammer. Here’s why.

The HINTS lab did more studies with Robovie. Read about them (and watch more Robovie videos.)



Thanks to sci-fi author Daniel H. Wilson, who first told us about Xavier the coffee robot and the Robovie experiment. (Need a good book about a robot apocalypse? He’s got your back.)



This episode of Undiscovered was reported and produced by Annie Minoff and Elah Feder. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata. Original music by Daniel Peterschmidt. Fact-checking help from Michelle Harris. Our theme music is by I am Robot and Proud.


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