Kayla J Herbst
Meet Harmony, the world’s first talking sex robot, created by Matt McMullen who is the CEO and creative director of Realbotix. For the past 20 years, McMullen has been making silicone sex dolls but has now moved into the world of technologically-advanced sex robots. By all accounts, Harmony is an incredibly human-like robot, with facial features that can replicate normal facial expressions. She can raise her eyebrows, dip her chin, move her eyes, and more. Her figure is a life-like replica of a woman’s. And, if buyers want to “customize” Harmony, they most certainly can—her body style, skin tone, hair color, eye color, breast size, freckles, and more are all customizable. She even comes in fantasy versions, where the manufacturers can add on elf ears or vampire fangs. Once she is fully complete, she is sent to buyers in 12 weeks for a price tag of $4,000 – $6,000.
“Harmony is a sophisticated piece of machinery and her primary design is to carry on conversations,” says McMullen. When Harmony is turned on to chat mode, her face motor and Bluetooth-powered speaker allow her to chat with you. She is programmed to recognize her owner’s voice, and can say that she has missed them, or even tell a joke. Harmony comes with an AI app where the owner can adjust her personality (shy, sensual, funny, talkative), mood, level of desire, voice style, and regional accent (a Scottish accent was mentioned in the article).
Harmony has come under a lot of scrutiny. Many argue that owning sex robots like Harmony could increase objectification and violence towards women. Others argue that, once Harmony’s app is hacked, she could be controlled to kill her owner. McMullen typically rejects these arguments, although he has programmed Harmony to “end any conversation that involves murder or violence.” And despite the backlash, McMullen wants to move forward with constant updates to Harmony—including adding video cameras behind her eyes that can track the owner around the room.
What do you think about Harmony? Do you think she serves a need, or just plain old freaks you out?
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is adding an additional $25M to his non-profit research computer lab. The new objective, according to the New York Times, is to incorporate common sense into artificial intelligence. Although AI today has become very well-developed, it still has some gaping holes; Alexa, for example, can still only recognize basic commands and answer straight-forward questions. Allen’s ambition is to create a comprehensive database that adds common sense into AI, something that humans often take for granted– facts like which end of a cup to drink from, and why things can’t be in two places at once, may be added to this database. Allen is clearly excited for the future of this project and, on a personal level, I’m interested to see how this will improve AI going forward.
What do you guys think? Does this make the prospect of AI more attractive, or scarier? Could you imagine a machine like Alexa correcting you when it recognized that you were doing something that lacked common sense?
For the first time in a long time, technology is shaking up the education industry. There have been many attempts to introduce technology into schools, but it hasn’t made a true difference in students’ learning or test scores. The article published in The Economist states, “In 2015 the OECD found no link between what countries spend on IT in schools and their 15-year-olds’ abilities in maths, science and reading” (2017). However, investors like Mark Zuckerberg are excited to implement “edtech” in schools throughout the country. Edtech consists of software that acts like a “tutor” rather than a test-generator, made possible by the built-in Artifical Intelligence (AI) that consistently collects data about the student and maximizes his or her learning. But, this isn’t just another iPad they’re simply throwing into students’ hands. Edtech comes with a whole new education system. For example, at the Kahn Lab School (KLS) in Mountain View, California, students aren’t separated by age; instead, they sit in a shared workspace. Teachers sit nearby to act as a tutors if ever a student is confused about a Kahn Academy video that he or she is watching. Other “mentors” standby to guide students in forming good character traits like curiosity, self-awareness, etc. The students don’t have homework or report cards, and they don’t sit in a classroom all day. Proponents of this form of education are optimistic because, (1) edtech is increasingly able to interact with students in sophisticated ways, and (2) edtech allows teachers and students to use their time more effectively and learn at a pace that matches their style.
I wonder how this will affect all levels of education moving forward. Would this kind of software also adapt to the “college scene”? Either way, this is, in my view, the first time that technology actually has a chance to shake up the classroom.
Check out the article: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21725285-reformers-are-using-new-software-personalise-learning-technology-transforming-what-happens