Google Patents Customisable Robot Personalities

Robots
A hundred humanoid communication robots called Robi perform a synchronized dance during a promotional event called 100 Robi, for the Weekly Robi Magazine, in Tokyo January 20, 2015. Yuya Shino/REUTERS

Google is preparing for a world in which robots possess human-like personalities after filing a patent for the technology in the United States.

Quartz, a tech and business news website, reports that the patent, awarded this week to the technology giant, will allow for the downloading and customization of robot personalities which could be stored in the cloud, and could even be programmed to resemble deceased family members.

The patent lays claim to a method for "providing a robot apparatus with a personality", and details how the robot's personality could change over time, how the robot's mood could be affected by certain events, and how the memory of events could be incorporated into the development of a robot's personality.

Google says the robots could also be installed with default robot personalities, referencing the Woody Allen robot ("transitory conditions of happiness, fear surprise, perplexion"), and the Rodney Dangerfield robot ("thoughtfulness, derision"). The patent continues: "These moods can again be triggered by cues or circumstances detected by the robot, or elicited on command."

It lays out the idea of keeping a bank of personality data stored on a "cloud device", allowing for personalities to be downloaded to individual or multiple robots. This would allow for the cloning of a robot personality, the thinking being that if you need to replace a robot, the personality of the old one can be transferred to the new, the same way that if a smartphone is replaced, much of its data is still available in the cloud.

The patent also details how a robot could decide itself to change how it interacts and so could have access to the bank of data. "A robot can be programmed to provide a desired look as well as interactability for the robot, which may be subject to change by the user or by the robot itself, such that the robot interface is customized to provide a desired personality for the robot. The robot personality is further disclosed as being sharable across a number of robots in varying locations."

With conversational skills as well as human-like visual features such as stances, twitches and facial movements, the patent says the technology could lead to the creation of personalities for robots reflecting those of real people like celebrities or deceased family members.

Google has purchased a number of robotics firms in the past few years, including Boston Dynamics which primarily develops robotics for the military, as well Bot & Dolly which makes robots that are used in film and TV.

However, this most recent patent could spark further warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence, after Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have all aired their fears on the subject. Writing on a Reddit 'Ask me anything' thread a few months ago, Gates said: "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence… I don't understand why some people are not concerned." Last year, Hawking told the BBC that he believes the development of full artificial intelligence "could spell the end of the human race."