Fans of Douglas Adams will no doubt be familiar with Marvin The Paranoid Android, the depressed if slightly conceited robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. But, instead of a paranoid android, how about a sassy one? A robot that rolls its eyes from time to time and fires off acerbic comments.
Well, scientists from Ausburg University have created just that, after programming one of their latest robots with a sense of irony. The fittingly-named Irony Man is designed to be less formal and more relatable than a typical AI. Unlike most talking machines, which speak in flat monotonous voices, Irony Man is able to reflect real patterns of human speech. So if someone were to say that “Traffic is frustrating,” Irony Man would retort “I love being stuck here” with a sarcastic emphasis on the word “love”.
But why would anyone want to make a smart-mouthed robot? Irony Man’s creators thought that he would be easier to get along with if he was programmed to speak like a real person. And it seems as if they were right. Students who took part in a trial with Irony Man found him to be more endearing than a standard machine. However there are still concerns over his lack of tact. Irony Man can use sarcasm but is unable to judge if it is appropriate, so he sometimes comes across as a little obnoxious.