It’s late in the evening and I am at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport waiting on a flight.
As I look down at the throngs of people still milling around the airport, I notice that no one is paying attention to, or even noticing the giant robot, standing all alone in the terminal!
It’s about ten feet tall and four feet wide and part of a promotion by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
Almost all those travelling at this time of the day are adults.
Then I see what was probably the only child in the airport, come running up to the robot and started engaging with it. He was about seven or eight years of age and he seemed to be having a lot of fun until his parents arrived on the scene and dragged him away from his fun.
All the adults seemed to be plugged into their phones or immensely distracted by whatever was going on in their world, while the child was curious as to what this amazingly shinny thing was and how he could play with it.
Perhaps it is because children are accustomed to seeing robots and interacting with them, as robotics and automation are part of their DNA, as they are growing up in a world that is vastly different from any previous generation.
In a world where in the not too distant future, robots will become part of our families, like our pets in our homes today!
Maybe it’s because children are also more naturally curious than adults and gradually over time we lose that curiosity.
According to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago our worldwide levels of curiosity are at an all-time low and our attention spans are shrinking.
Robots are increasingly becoming more prominent in our society and used in many different areas.
For example, they are being used to teach students in the classroom for a number of subjects across science, math and language. But according to a recent study, while students enjoy learning with robots, teachers are slightly reluctant to use them in the classroom.
It appears that the teachers were very skeptical of using robots, stating that they did not have confidence in their technical capabilities. There was also trust issues as the teachers were concerned that robots may eventually replace them (how many of us feel this way?).
Regardless of the concerns, we need to recognize that robotics is not intended to replace teachers but to enhance the experience in the classroom, to be used as learning aids.
By the way, I recently returned to the airport and that robot is still there, hopefully it has had a lot of love and attention in the meantime!
Is it time to start loving our robots?