The recently-unveiled Nao robot, seen here demonstrating its superior dance skills, is the first robot in the world that can "develop and display emotions"—including sadness, happiness, fright, and, hopefully, guilt, which could prevent it from killing us all.

Nao, who was developed by a group of European (of course!) scientists, is modeled on young children, who show emotion through non-verbal clues like posture, gesture and movement, rather than "facial or verbal expression." Like a one-year-old, Nao can learn from its interaction with humans, remember faces, and develop a distinct "personality" (more like robot-ality, am I right?!). As Nao spends time with specific people, it begins to develop attachments to them, learning their moods and reporting back to its robot masters the best way to incapacitate them. (Kidding! I hope!)

The hope is that the technology developed in Nao can be used in a variety of applications—with the elderly, with children, and apparently even for help ordering groceries online. (Upon reflection, I can say that my Fresh Direct experience would be vastly improved if a robot was involved.) It has already made a great deal of progress with chimpanzees:


Chimpanzees, which provided much of the data for the emotional responses Cañamero used in her work, have already benefited from some of the work that has gone into programming emotional robots. "Lots of them live in sanctuaries and research institutes and they're miserable," said Cañamero. "They're living in enclosures and they behave in non-natural ways. They enjoy interacting with robots. One of our colleagues put a robot outside the enclosures and the chimpanzees went to fetch their friends to look, and they got excited and motivated to move around."