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Robot teaches kids to not abuse robots

Issued: 2018-03-27

Here's a little robotic tortoise with a big lesson to teach.

Shelly is a cute little guy, with a plastic shell, wiggly legs, and a series of LEDs that light up to express its repertoire of simulated emotions. But Shelly is more than just a toy. It’s a tool designed to help children understand that while robots may not feel pain or hurt feelings the way humans do, mistreating them is not okay.

If a child hits or squeezes Shelly — or tries to pry apart its shell — the sensor-studded turtlebot pulls its noggin back into its shell and doesn’t come out again for 14 seconds.

Shelly was created by researchers in South Korea in anticipation of the day when robots will be ubiquitous in our lives, helping in our homes and even acting as friendly companions. One of the researchers, Jason Choi, said it's important for everyone to understand that robots must be treated fairly if they are to be fully integrated into human society.

“We think that this is different from considering a robot as equal to humans,” Choi, a research intern at Naver Labs in Seongnam, South Korea, told NBC News MACH in an email. “We just think that a robot acting as a social agent can greatly serve the society” and that abusing robots could limit their value.

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