Robots Designed Only To Feel Pain

This robot dental patient screams "Ouch!" when a trainee dentist screws up. The Simroid dental therapy simulator has sensors in its mouth and an optional gag reflex, in case the dentist goes too far. Forget robots that selflessly care only about your pain — the cutting edge is robots that feel pain, and model it for humans. New robots are designed to sense your moods — or to freak out when you grope them.


Here's Aiko, the Canadian bot who just made her debut in Ontario earlier this month. Aiko is a wheelchair-bound android who feels your touch and responds the way a normal human would. In the demo video above, Aiko freaks out when her creator hurts her arm, but keeps her dignity when he grabs her breast. An android who role-plays sexual harrassment, with tons of outrage but no consequences, could be worth a fortune at executive retreats.

And then there's the Korean robot called Haemi (Korean for "Hamster") which senses your emotional state and tries to mirror it with body language and expression. Korean PhD student Kwak So-Na won first prize in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 2006 Robot Companion Design Contest for Students. She says future versions of Haemi could change color depending on your feelings, like mood rings.

Who wants a robot dog that doesn't like being petted? The Mio, which comes out in October, shows its pleasure when you stroke it. The robot has touch sensors behind its ears, under its chin, on its back. What happens if you try to hurt it? Probably nothing, but we'll find out in October. You know there has to be a market for pets that you can torture without guilt.

Robots won't really be able to interact with their environment unless they have some sense of "bad touch." A realistic pain sensor is probably one a crucial step towards real AI. But we're definitely going to have some creepy-ass experiments along the way. [Simroid Image by Yoshikazu Tsuno for AFP/Getty]