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The secret to robots with better social skills? Exploiting human nature. Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of BoingBoing.net, explores “how [designers can make] robots trick you in loving them” for the New York Times Magazine.

“In the future, more robots will occupy that strange gray zone: doing not only jobs that humans can do but also jobs that require social grace. In the last decade, an interdisciplinary field of research called Human-Robot Interaction has arisen to study the factors that make robots work well with humans, and how humans view their robotic counterparts. […]

H.R.I. researchers have discovered some rather surprising things: a robot’s behavior can have a bigger impact on its relationship with humans than its design; many of the rules that govern human relationships apply equally well to human-robot relations; and people will read emotions and motivations into a robot’s behavior that far exceed the robot’s capabilities. As we employ those lessons to build robots that can be better caretakers, maids and emergency responders, we risk further blurring the (once unnecessary) line between tools and beings.”