Opinion

Google's latest patent suggests robots with interchangeable personalities are on the horizon

4 min read

09 April 2015

From Warner Bros' Iron Giant and Bicentennial Man's Andrew to Wall-E and Gigolo Joe from Artificial Intelligence, the movie verse has often given robots personalities in order to advance plot lines and create drama. But this concept may no longer be the preserve of science fiction.

According to Google, personality is the “personification in the sense of human characteristics or qualities attributed to a non-human thing”. And the internet giant’s latest goal is to finally bestow such capabilities onto a robot.

Google has been awarded a patent for the “methods and systems for robot personality development”, but that’s only half of the picture. Robots could soon react to human emotion based on data they mine from users. 

By “[determining] or [identifying] information about a user”, a tailored personality would be created. 

The patent noted: “The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (e.g., behave based on the user, a deceased loved one, a celebrity and so on) so as to take on character traits of people to be emulated by a robot.”

You could always choose a specific personality type for your robot, which could even be “triggered by cues or circumstances” that the robot could detect.

“The robot personality may also be modifiable within a base personality construct (i.e., a default-persona) to provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion (e.g., the Woody Allen robot), thoughtfulness, derision (e.g., the Rodney Dangerfield robot), and so forth. These moods can again be triggered by cues or circumstances detected by the robot, or elicited on command,” the patent explained.

The company has suggested that it would be possible to download different personality types from the cloud as well. In fact, you might not even have to choose. It’s highly likely that your robo-pal will be able to pick for you.

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By calculating your current location and browsing through your social media profiles, the robot will adopt the right personality at the right time. Imagine being given a reminder to clean your fridge, all done in your mother’s voice, in real-time. That spells out great potential for the internet of things.

The patent suggested that the robot would also be able to modify its personality by inferring the user’s mood through methods like correlating the current weather to previous moods. If you tend to get sad when it rains, the robot may “perform uplifting tunes from ‘Annie’ to evoke positive reinforcement responses from the user”. 

It will even use your diction and sentence structures from email, texts, or phone calls to estimate your emotional state and respond accordingly. 

Another exert from the patent highlights the fact that the robot could assemble an entire personality on request. 

“Adoption of a personality, or some personification attributes, could be more direct, such as a simple user command to adopt a character by name: ‘Be mom’; ‘Become Gwynneth’; ‘Adopt persona Beta’,” the patent read. 

“The character (personality) may be a program already stored, or it could be something in the cloud. If the later, the robot would interact with the cloud to pull sufficient information regarding the ‘new’ persona to thereby recreate a simulacrum for the robot. The information for the persona could also come from a user device. Such as, in response to a ‘Be mom’ command, ‘mom’ may not be known to the robot. The robot processor can then search user devices for information about ‘mom’.” 

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