Is your robot a little cheeky? Google may build it that way

Google awarded a patent for technology that will give robots customizable personalities

Google is working toward the day when robots have individual personalities, according to the company's U.S. patent application.

If Google's technology works out, robots will have personalities that can be customized to suit the individual people they will be working with. In another step, the robots should be able to tailor their own personalities.

"Methods and systems for robot and user interaction are provided to generate a personality for the robot," the company stated in the patent application, which was first filed in April 2012 and accepted earlier this week. "A robot may access a user device to determine or identify information about a user, and the robot may be configured to tailor a personality for interaction with the user based on the identified information."

Google also notes that the robots would be built to identify different people, using speech and facial recognition, and then configure their personality to suit the human's preferences.

"In some examples, a robot's personality or personalization can be transferred from one robot to another robot, or information stored on one robot can be shared with another robot over the cloud," Google added.

The technology would be geared to anticipate a user's moods based on historical data. Is someone a morning person or does she want to be quiet before she has her coffee? Does the user like jokes or is he more serious, especially in the office?

Google did not respond to a request for more information.

This patent fits in with Google's recent investment in robotics.

Over the past two years, Google has bought up at least eight robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, a real heavyweight in the robot industry. The company is well-known for its four-legged BigDog robot, and for its humanoid Atlas robot, which is being used in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in June.

Google last year invested in California-startup Savioke, which builds service robots for nursing homes and hospitals.

Now it also appears that Google is interested in developing technology that would give personalities to those service robots, making it possible for the machines to better interact with people in elder care, child care or hospital settings.

"It's both creepy yet very usable," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "For elder care or a personal assistant, this could be big to the user, enabling sarcasm, humor and expressions. It all comes into play. I believe that when done right, a robot with a personality will make humans more comfortable with them."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he's interested in the fact that Google's vision includes changeable personalities.

"You want your robot to be customizable," he added. "A more aggressive person might need a more passive robot so they're compatible… This is moving robots more toward personal usage."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, agreed, adding, "It's about how you want your robot assistant to interact with you. Think about it being easier to talk to and deal with.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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