Imagine it: The hottest new piece of technology is flying off the shelves, and people can’t stop playing with it. Then, soon enough, it starts to have horrible repercussions for users.
It’s a story that has played out countless times, both in real life and fiction.
Robin Murphy, director of the Humanitarian Robotics and AI Laboratory at Texas A&M, found such an intersection between reality and fiction in a new novel, Little Eyes, written by Samanta Schweblin. Understanding that intersection could dramatically improve how modern roboticists build telemedicine systems, she argues — systems that are becoming critical in the coronavirus pandemic.
Little Eyes centers on a new piece of technology, a global fad called a ‘kentucki.’ An intoxicating mash-up of a furby and ChatRoulette, kentuckies are tiny dolls on wheels equipped with cameras that stream to a tablet. One person owns the doll, while another watches on the tablet.
The toys can move around of their own accord, and the tablets can translate whatever is being recorded into different languages for the user. The pairing can never be separated. But direct interaction between the two users is impossible.