h a l f b a k e r y
Not so much a thought experiment as a single neuron misfire.
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Much information you get from your computer is text read from a monitor (such as email). Instead of reading it, how about having it read to you by a robot avatar? In addition, you could ask the avatar questions or agree to accessing certain options, thus navigating web sites or various programs.
bonus of having the Avatar that you do not need to watching the computer monitor (you don't need to be in the same room either) and it would be more like conversing with another 'lifeform', rather than staring at a computer monitor. This would essentially allow you to check email and get updates of information from many different sources in a more socially acceptable way - talking to an avatar at a party would be much more acceptable than going off to access a computer.
Your voice-controlled AIBO robot can read you emails and selected web pages. [pottedstu, Nov 23 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]
Robots socializing with people
Using the social protocol of humans among humans for human-robot interaction is a key goal of the MIT MediaLab's "Kismet". Superficially, it looks like a "raw" furby, but it actually uses subtle and complicated concepts like gaze direction, blinks, eye contact, personal space, etc. [jutta, Nov 23 2001]
For a while, Microsoft was marketing a children's version of this idea. An ActiMate is a robotic, speaking doll with a wireless link to a base station that plugs into a PC's serial port and has data uploaded to it to control arm movements and make it talk. Certain web sites, video tapes, and TV shows, and of course computer software would send instructions and speech to the doll. [jutta, Nov 23 2001]
Great introduction to the mechanical details of the Furby. [jutta, Nov 23 2001]
Revised legalese on Aibo hack site; Sony comes to its senses and agrees to let people play with their toys. Score one for sanity. [jutta, Nov 30 2001]
||Definitely coming very soon if it's not here. Predecessors would be Nintendo's ROB robot for the NES, which by all accounts did nothing whatsoever, and the Microsoft Barney dinosaur which connects to your PC, talks and plays educational games. There are a lot of systems based on interacting with a virtual avatar (displayed on a monitor), but replacing it with a robot would be far cooler. You can also get your Sony AIBO dog to read your email to you (see link).
||'more acceptable than going off to access a computer.'
Surely you *are* accessing a computer; it just happens to be robot-shaped, and walks around.
||[angel]: Moot point. If you ask Teddy, "What time is it?" are you accessing the time server or are you merely conversing with a stuffed toy who is accessing the time server.
||This would drive me absolutely insane with impatience. Sitting at my happy little screen, I can scan through email, figure out what's important, what's not, what's from mom, etc. Perhaps this is just reaction to the number of times in school I'd been handed a sheet of information, and then had someone read it to me, word for word. Either way, this is gettin' a carcass. (btw, let me know if you want me to call you and read this annotation aloud).
||Same here. I can read a lot faster than I can be read to.
||You could use the Microsoft Narrator from the accessability Programs Menu. It will read the contents of most of the text fields. It is not perfect but is pretty neat.