Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

They’re alive! Are smart toys changing how children interact with humans?




Alexander the friendly robot visits the Indoor Park to interact with children by telling classic fairy tales, singing and dancing at Westfield London on August 10, 2016 in London, England.
Alexander the friendly robot visits the Indoor Park to interact with children by telling classic fairy tales, singing and dancing at Westfield London on August 10, 2016 in London, England.
Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Westfield

Listen to story

18:57
Download this story 27.0MB

It’s cute when a kid asks, “Alexa, did you farted?,” but as the realm of smart technology quickly evolves from household voice assistants to tangible, intelligent toys, how should we monitor children’s relationship with AI?

Take Cozmo for example. The tiny and adorable Wall-E-esque robot created by Anki can recognize your child’s face and respond with gleeful eyes to make them (and you) feel warm and fuzzy inside.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVLFyTTdTPk

The built-in “emotion engine” also allows it to adapt and respond to its surroundings with a range of reactions, including boredom, frustration and anger – you don’t want to drop him.

So it’s no surprise that children quickly develop a deep sense of attachment and emotional responsibility for their smart robots, transcending conventional ties to a stuffed bear or favorite video game. But how authentic are these connections? And if more of their attention continues to divert towards technology, how can parents ensure real human relationships are still formed throughout childhood?

We speak with two experts on children’s interactions with artificial intelligence.

Guests:

Sandra Calvert, professor of psychology at Georgetown University and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center  

Stefania Druga, research assistant at MIT Media Lab, which studies interactions between humans and technology; she was the lead author of the MIT study “‘Hey Google is it OK if I eat you?’ Initial Explorations in Child-Agent Interaction