After the surprise that HRPR 2009 changed locations/universities/cities right before I was supposed to go, I was really happy about how the conference turned out. I got to check out some very interesting and very broad research in HCI/HRI at the combination CHI-NL/HRPR conference. CHI-NL has an interesting model where they alternate between an academia-focused conference one year and an industry-focused conference the next. HRPR received tremendous (press) attention last year but not so much this year.
Meeting Ishiguro-sensei (THE Ishiguro-sensei) was pretty astounding as well. He’s a brilliant, intense character as I expected, but he’s also very open about himself and passionate about his work, which makes sense but I didn’t quite expect. His talk was inspiring, far-looking and shocking in its claims. His perspective on life with robots is at first startling: he absolutely believes in our lifetime we will see people living with robots. At least, in Japan (where negative media-induced connotations of robots are few). The issues raised in our discussions ranged from the philosophical (what is it to be human? Ishiguro (half-jokingly referencing someone else I think): you’re human if you question what it is to be human), to the tough ethical questions (should robots be created? they could be used for both good and evil). Ishiguro is making humanoid robots a reality, but whose job is it to make sure they’re used ethically? The scientist-engineer? Politicians? Corporations? Businesspeople? Ishiguro doesn’t go into any depth with the issue – he already has enough on his plate.
It was an excellent opportunity to meet and discuss about HRI, especially in a smaller group. Awesome location too. Huge thanks to Prof. Jaap van den Herik, Jeroen Janssens and Joke Hellemons for organizing!
In other news, Belgian beer is incredible. Jet Airlines ain’t bad.