Connected Exploration

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= "The increasing capabilities of the robots will be outdone by the increasing human capabilities with the robots". [1]


David Lang:

"As a technology, telerobotic exploration vehicles are in a special class of human-made creations (along with boats and planes and cars that people have owned for a long time) that want to be named individually. Not named broadly, like a brand or product, but named individually, like “Costa Concordia” or “Nereus” or the small sailboat I live aboard, “My Three Sons”. You would never hear someone refer to their coffee mug or toaster with a personal pronoun like “she” or “he” or “her”. But with boats and telerobotic exploration vehicles, it comes as second nature.

I was surprised when individual OpenROVs started showing up on Twitter with their own twitter handles, speaking in the first person. Now I know better. There’s a wealth of research emerging around human-robot interaction that back up my observations. Heather Knight, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Melon, recently published a report titled “How Humans Respond to Robots” in which she explained:

“Sociability is our natural interface, to each other and to living creatures in general. As part of that innate behavior, we quickly seek to identify objects from agents. In fact, as social creatures, it is often our default behavior to anthropomorphize moving robots.” John Steinbeck said the same about boats over 70 years ago:

“And Man receiving back from Boat a warping of his psyche so that the sight of a boat riding in the water clenches a fist of emotion in his chest. A horse, a beautiful dog, arouses sometimes a quick emotion, but of inanimate things only a boat can do it. And a boat, above all other inanimate things, is personified in man’s mind.” It’s almost as if we subconsciously gauge their intentions, as you would a potential predator in the wild or another person in a dark alley, and react accordingly. ROVs are less threatening than drones, because we quickly understand that they are not a threat and their innate purpose is, like boats, to help us travel further and farther than we ever could alone.

These devices are not drones as humans are still very much in the loop. They are distant relatives of the Internet of Things as no thermostat or refrigerator — no matter how smart they become — could open up entirely new worlds. Connected exploration is something altogether new and wonderful. It’s a future that will make your spirit soar, but also one that could break your heart if you lose one of your mechanical friends." (

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