Last week, the Japanese company Hitachi rolled out the latest version of their EMIEW2 service robot (Excellent Mobility and Interactive Existence as Workmate). And to the horror of all professional comedians trembling for their jobs, this time the robot returned with a sense of humour.
Well, not quite… While the robot can indeed crack a few jokes, comedians can relax for a while, because EMIEW is unlikely to make you break into tears and roll on the floor laughing. According to the reports, the humour is, at the least, questionable. What perhaps is more relevant is that the robot can recognise when its jokes fail to reach the audience.
For instance, when asked during the demonstration how many people worked at Hitachi’s lab, the robot responded: “We have two swans”.
However, picking up the confused expression on the face of the person asking the question, EMIEW continued: You got it? I’m kidding, we have about 800 people working here.”
The robot is programmed to understand a range of non-verbal responses like gestures, nods and facial expressions, and it is this capability that enables it to know whether the jokes are understood.
Hitachi itself has acknowledged that EMIEW’s sense of humour is nowhere near our highest standards, but we still can see where the company is headed. Humour has a unifying influence on speakers and creating robots capable of exploiting this influence for the sake of better communication is an important step towards a fully functional service robot.
All joking aside, EMIEW2 is a charming little bot that was envisioned to pave the way for a smoother interaction with people at the workplace. To run errands in the labyrinths of an office building, the 80-centimetre tall robot is equipped with a unique wheeled system that allows it to scoot in an upright position on two wheels as well as to get on its knees and move on four. Watch the video below to see EMIEW2 in action.