Robotics and computing have seen exciting developments in the past decade thanks to the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI). Computers are good at performing specific tasks for which they are designed; however, they are terrible at completing general tasks or tasks which require plasticity. On the other hand, humans are the complete opposite; we are extremely plastic and can adapt subconsciously to our changing environment.

The main problems with tech seeming ‘un-human’ are: how they move and if they feel.

Movement and robotic prosthetics

We take our limbs for granted. We move them with incredible dexterity and little exertion, but a simple movement, like wiggling our finger, is incredibly sophisticated. In order to move our hand, it requires the precise coordination of muscles, connective tissues and nerves. This allows for fine motor control to pinch, touch, grab, grip or snatch, which are small nuances robotic prosthetics struggles to adapt to.

However, AI is helping us solve movement problems. For example, AI can make the wearer or a prosthetic leg adjust to uneven ground in a matter of seconds or predict the trajectory of a thrown ball. If an AI prosthetic has been exposed to a similar situation, it will make predictions about how to respond. These are processes all humans take for granted since we make these movement calculations subconsciously.

Robotic empathy and emotion

Social interaction requires a huge amount of coordination between the spoken word, facial expression, and body language. All these factors change depending on: who you are speaking to, their mood and environmental context. For a conventional computer, social settings are somewhat awkward.

AI, however, means the creation of the humanoid robot, which can react to your emotions and adapt its response accordingly. AI acts much like a child would to social situations; at first, a child is shy or awkward, but later they learn how to interact in social situations. AI uses a similar trial and error approach that a child would, but at a much faster rate. Hence, eventually and over a period of time, the technology can learn to act human.