Why are so many robots white?

Problems of racial and gender bias in artificial intelligence algorithms and the data used to train large language models like ChatGPT have drawn the attention of researchers and generated headlines. But these problems also arise in social robots, which have physical bodies modeled on nonthreatening versions of humans or animals and are designed to interact with people.

The aim of the subfield of social robotics called socially assistive robotics is to interact with ever more diverse groups of people. Its practitioners’ noble intention is “to create machines that will best help people help themselves,” writes one of its pioneers, Maja Matarić. The robots are already being used to help people on the autism spectrum, children with special needs and stroke patients who need physical rehabilitation.

But these robots do not look like people or interact with people in ways that reflect even basic aspects of society’s diversity. As a sociologist who studies human-robot interaction, I believe that this problem is only going to get worse. Rates of diagnoses for autism in children of color are now higher than for white kids in the U.S. Many of these children could end up interacting with white robots.

So, to adapt the famous Twitter hashtag around the Oscars in 2015, why #robotssowhite?

Read the full article from The Conversation

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