Every time they kick this robot I feel a really vivid emotional reaction, like it’s vulnerable and needs protection. It makes me think about Kate Darling‘s work:

“This effect already comes into play when objects are not specifically designed to evoke these feelings. For example, when the United States military began testing a robot that defused landmines by stepping on them, the colonel in command called off the exercise. The robot was modeled after a stick insect with six legs. Every time it stepped on a mine, it lost one of its legs and continued on the remaining ones. According to Garreau (2007), “[t]he colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg. This test, he charged, was inhumane.” Other autonomous robots employed within military teams evoke fondness and loyalty in their human teammates, who identify with the robots enough to name them, award them battlefield promotions and “purple hearts”, introduce them to their families, and become very upset when they “die”. While none of these robots are designed to give emotional cues, their autonomous behavior makes them appear lifelike enough to generate an emotional response. In fact, even simple household robots like the Roomba vacuum cleaner prompt people to talk to them and develop feelings of camaraderie and gratitude.”