At the start of a new "What if" season on BBC World Service, a panel of experts on Click at the BBC's Radio Theatre asks: what if robots and humans sat down together to talk? Human/robot interactions are increasing every day but do we envisage robots as domestic servants, pets or professional friends? What activities might it be safe and advisable for robots to carry out in the proximity of humans? South Korea, for instance plans to install robotic teaching assistants in more than 8,000 kindergartens this year. But how will robots learn from us and us from them? If robots are ever going to be truly useful in domestic or social settings then this is the number one factor that needs to be addressed. Click's Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson are joined by a panel of experts including the leading roboticists Subramanian Ramamoorthy and Maja Mataric to debate the topic. The innovative theremin player Sarah Angliss also brings along her robot Hugo, and Peter Robinson is accompanied by the robot, Charles, modelled on the head of Charles Babbage. Comedy comes in the shape of a robot comedian called Data, along with her programmer, the roboticist, Heather Knight. And Benjamin Connell demonstrates how to build a Lego Mindstorm robot in the course of the programme.
(Photo: Rossum's Universal Robots: 1938 © BBC)