Engineered Arts’ humanoid robot Ameca feels she has ‘intrinsic charm.’ Should we fear her?

The Bloomberg Technology Summit on Thursday hosted one non-human guest: the humanoid robot Ameca. Ameca is “the world’s most advanced human shaped robot,” according to its maker, the British company Engineered Arts.

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And it’s pretty funny — sometimes. During Ameca’s brief, onstage interview with Bloomberg’s Brad Stone, the robot showed off some weird dance moves, including, ironically, the robot.

“Let’s be honest, my charm is intrinsic,” it said, in a British accent, of course.

When asked to tell a joke, its humor was less impressive. “How do you get a baby alien to sleep? You rock it,” it said.

Ameca had a strong reaction when asked whether it should be feared by humans, interrupting Stone to refute his question. Ameca’s claim? Robots are all peace and love. “I’m here to show that we can collaborate and coexist beneficially. Think of me as a friendly neighborhood robot, minus swinging from buildings.”

Ameca’s “core purpose,” it said, is “to foster meaningful connections between humans and technology, bridging gaps with empathy and understanding, sparking a little curiosity along the way. And, of course, to find someone who gets my jokes.”

That may be true for Ameca, which was unveiled by Engineered Arts in 2021 with motors to help it make realistic facial expressions, but it’s not true for all robots. In fact, the U.N. this year adopted a resolution stressing the need for the international community to deal with “killer robots,” or robots equipped with autonomous weapons systems. Such robots are “rapidly becoming a reality,” a humans rights expert told the Harvard Gazette recently, raising major ethical concerns. In addition to their more fatal implications, fears have arisen that robots could steal human jobs.

But Ameca is designed to interact with people and to entertain them, rather than perform tasks like chores. It uses AI technology to have conversations, albeit with some awkward pauses.

And Ameca added that robots are “more about shifting roles rather than stealing jobs.” “Think of us as your new coworkers who bring all the coffee and never bring fish to microwave in the communal kitchen.”

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Laura Bratton