- Facebook pushes back against moderators complaining about ‘Big Brother’ environment Today 12:46 PM
- Twitter hid post from an account linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Today 10:17 AM
- How to stream Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera for free Today 8:00 AM
- ‘Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy’ finds the balance between tragedy and comedy Today 7:30 AM
- How to stream Michael ‘Venom’ Page vs. Paul Daley for free Today 7:00 AM
- How to watch the NBA Dunk Contest 2019 online for free Today 6:50 AM
- The best new TV shows to stream this weekend Today 6:00 AM
- Bug lets Twitter save your DMs—even after you delete them Friday 7:21 PM
- Guy mansplains song to Japanese Breakfast, the female artist who wrote the song Friday 6:38 PM
- Ann Coulter’s Twitter bio links to a vulgar parody account Friday 5:22 PM
- Popular YouTube music channel gets income yanked for ‘repetitious’ content Friday 4:14 PM
- New website will endlessly generate fake faces thanks to AI Friday 3:41 PM
- Man fakes getting stood up at Outback Steakhouse Friday 3:03 PM
- FCC looks to tackle robocalls and spoofed texts Friday 2:57 PM
- How to protect yourself from the data breach that affected 744 million accounts Friday 12:56 PM
We need to start extending diversity to our robots, too.
If there was any chance that robots would skirt humanity’s tendency towards skin color-based judgments, we were wrong. It turns out humans have a racism problem not just when it comes to other humans, but also when it comes to robots.
A new study out of New Zealand’s University of Canterbury found that the color white can act as a social cue that results in a perception of race, IEEE Spectrum reports. While this isn’t likely to be the case for a white refrigerator or a white speaker, it does come into effect when white colors something that tends to be anthropomorphized—like a humanoid robot.
“We hope that our study encourages robot designers to create robots that represent the diversity of their communities,” Christoph Bartneck, a professor with the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Lab and lead author of the study, told IEEE Spectrum in an interview. “There is no need for all robots to be white.”
When Bartneck and his co-authors, representing Monash University in Australia, Guizhou University of Engineering Science in China, and Germany’s University of Bielefeld, presented their findings at a conference earlier this year, the paper was met with a lot of raised eyebrows accusing the researchers of sensationalism.
A quick look at some prominent robots does suggest there is a trend. The social robot Jibo comes with a white body; Toyota’s T-HR3 robot features a lot of white; and Honda’s Asimo humanoid robot is white as well. The humanoid robot Sophia, famous for being granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia, has white skin. However, the former three examples also feature a good amount of black coloring in their design too. Jibo’s face, for example, has a black background. (In general, home robots tend to be white because it better matches home decor, companies have said—the same reason so many home appliances tend to come in white.)
Luckily, robots designed more for play than for home—such as Anki’s Cozmo or Overdrive toys—tend towards different colorways. These particular products also look more like vehicles than humans, so there’s that too.
Still, Bartneck thinks that robot designers should start considering color and racism as they develop designs, as there are few robots today that “might plausibly be identified as anything other than white or Asian,” he says. This is particularly problematic since Bartneck and his co-authors found that people exhibited a racial bias to robots racialized as Black and that people will racialize robots whether or not they’ve even realized it.
You can read the full paper here for a $15 download.
H/T IEEE Spectrum
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.