Soldiers are starting to feel empathy for their military robots

Julie Carpenter, a Ph.D. in education at the University of Washington, recently interviewed 23 explosive ordinance personnel who regularly used robots for their jobs, for a book she’s working on about human-robot interactions. According to her interviews, the soldiers commonly anthropomorphize their robots, giving them names and genders, and even feeling empathy towards them:

“‘They would say they were angry when a robot became disabled because it is an important tool, but then they would add “poor little guy,” or they’d say they had a funeral for it,’ Carpenter said. ‘These robots are critical tools they maintain, rely on, and use daily. They are also tools that happen to move around and act as a stand-in for a team member, keeping Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel at a safer distance from harm.’

‘You don’t want someone to hesitate using one of these robots if they have feelings toward the robot that goes beyond a tool,’ she said. ‘If you feel emotionally attached to something, it will affect your decision-making.'”

This will come as no surprise to anyone who cried their eyes out after watching “Wall-E.” And, who knows, maybe this will finally usher in a fun new age of robot girlfriends.

Image: Pixar