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The teaching tortoise

March 15, 2018.

Shelly the tortoise.

Shelly the tortoise. © Naver Labs.

Shelly is a South Korean robot-tortoise that was created to teach young children to respect robots. The idea is to reduce or eliminate aggressive behaviours during interactions with the creature. Shelly is a toy that’s fun to play with and that lights up when petted, but just like a real turtle, when hit, she withdraws and hides in her shell, and won’t come out until she’s decided that the environment is safe again. Shelly was made large enough that five to seven children under the age of 13 can interact with her at the same time. The top part, Shelly’s shell, is studded with LEDs and vibration sensors that can detect contact and impacts. Jason J. Choi of Naver Labs (Seoul), says a most interesting thing about the management of human-machine relationships: “Previous research has found that robots that rely on verbal warnings or escaping from abusive situations are not effective in restraining abusive behaviors. These kinds of reactions rather excite people’s curiosity and motivate them to abuse robots continuously. In our research, we showed that stopping attractive interaction is a better solution than somehow reacting to the abusive behavior.”

IEEE Spectrum, “Robotic tortoise helps kids to learn that robot abuse is a bad thing.”