​Google patents way to give robots personalities - and mimic the dead

Google has designed a system to store and distribute personalities to robots.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The idea of a robot with a personality isn't new, if mostly one confined to science fiction, but if a recent Google patent is realised, that idea could take one step closer to reality.

According to the patent, Google hopes that robots could in the future be given multiple and transferable personalities that mimic traits of living people -- or even potentially those of the deceased.

A robot based on a deceased person is just one incarnation imagined in a US patent recently granted to Google for "methods and systems of robot personality development".

The patent outlines ways that mobile devices, cloud computing and robots packed with sensors could be used to spin up a personality profile for a given user or which may be selected by the robot itself based on a certain cues or circumstances, or selected by the user.

"The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (e.g., behave based on the user, a deceased loved one, a celebrity and so on) so as to take on character traits of people to be emulated by a robot," the patent notes.

Would such robots, imbued with the personality of a deceased loved one, help a grieving person ease the pain of loss, say by allowing them to interact with something more tangible, instead of just looking at a photo or revisiting other momentos? Or would it just traumatise the person left behind?

If such a robot was to bother the user, in Google's patent, the robot would likely recognise the problem and adopt a completely different "personality" stored in the cloud.

Google's system for robotic personalities
Image: Google

"The robot personality may also be modifiable within a base personality construct (i.e., a default-persona) to provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion (e.g., the Woody Allen robot), thoughtfulness, derision (e.g., the Rodney Dangerfield robot), and so forth. These moods can again be triggered by cues or circumstances detected by the robot, or elicited on command."

According to Google, in the context of robots, personality is merely "personification in the sense of human characteristics or qualities attributed to a non-human thing".

The patent also explores how to distribute personalities to soft and hard robots, with the former seeing personalities loaded to an application robot. Meanwhile the personality in a physical body could easily be cloned, transported, or stored providing "a kind of teleportation capability for the robot".

Google describes several ways mobile devices, cloud computing, and the robot could be configured to operate, where in some cases the mobile handset operates as a the "brain" of the robot", which could be physically attached or wirelessly connected.

With personalities stored in the cloud, Google offers a number of ways users could configure their robots.

"Adoption of a personality, or some personification attributes, could be more direct, such as a simple user command to adopt a character by name: "Be mom"; "Become Gwynneth"; "Adopt persona Beta." The character (personality) may be a program already stored, or it could be something in the cloud. If the later, the robot would interact with the cloud to pull sufficient information regarding the "new" persona to thereby recreate a simulacrum for the robot. The information for the persona could also come from a user device. Such as, in response to a "Be mom" command, "mom" may not be known to the robot. The robot processor can then search user devices for information about "mom."

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