This Robot Will Sass You Real Good

24 June 2019
AI, Robotics
Researchers in Germany have created a robot that can replicate a complicated human emotion – sarcasm

So, this is Irony Man, a 30-centimetre robot created by researchers in Hamburg which has managed to execute something that has eluded scientists for years – sass.

Made by developers at HCM Labs, the robot can not only understand and react to sarcasm, it has a series of looks that range from eye rolls to cheeky winks to a saccade.

Now, far it be it for us to question the relentless march of AI in its quest to form a robot army so superior to the human race that it quickly forces us into a life of subservience, but this seems an unusual change of pace.

Not so, according to science.

“In human-human conversation, irony occurs in a natural manner,” said Dr. Elisabeth André of Augsburg University. “Irony may help create a more pleasant atmosphere by conveying critical information, such as complaints, in a less direct manner.”

Because that’s what the world needs, bad news or a complaint delivered sarcastically. “Yeah, Dave, I’m afraid we’re looking at department-wide redundancies. We’re sooooooo sorry.” *eye roll.

The wider concern would be that the fall-out from this one goes really badly, meaning that the robot’s sass might enough to set the AI game back years. An irony not lost on Irony Man, although most likely wholly missed by its more ‘credible’ robot peers. The whole thing is a minefield.

But there is method to the madness. While Irony Man may well appear light years from more advanced robots such as ‘Sophia’ – an AI that is able to copy and replicate human expressions – there’s more at play than the mere aesthetic, here.

It’s very likely that the data gathered by analysing a wider scope of emotion and attitude such as irony and sarcasm in everyday life will, ultimately, help to progress the integration between humans and robots or AIs in the near future.

Yeah, like that’s gona happen.