Exploring the alterity of embodied emotional robots

This paper places a new figure at the heart of the boundary area between human and machine: the embodied emotional robot. The paper initially focuses on how and why theories concerning the interconnections between embodiment and emotion, such as those of Antonio Damasio, have been brought into robotics research. It then examines the ways in which the embodied emotional robot puts further pressure on the boundary between human and machine: a boundary that, as Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles and Sherry Turkle argue, has already been made indistinct by the cyborg figure, the perspectives of posthumanism and the emergence of the computer as evocative object.

While acknowledging that emotional robots do blur the categories of human and machine, this paper argues that it might be more productive to respect them as other-than-human beings in their own right. A discussion of fictional robots is used to draw out how intelligent emotional machines might be considered in terms of Haraway’s conception of “companion species”.

By placing the emotional robot as a companion species, this paper moves away from ideas of convergence with the ‘human’, instead emphasising how an engagement with its difference might be used to promote complex but workable relations.