Humans want to have friends. This need for companionship in a soul-crushingly indifferent world can lead us to confuse mechanical motion with human emotion, as shown in this video by researchers at the University of Calgary.
Researchers John Harris and Ehud Sharlin set out to test the limits of human capability to see ourselves in cold, emotionless machines. Thirty participants sat in a room with what can only be described as a waving broomhandle, instructed to "think aloud and interact freely" with the device. Some waved hello. Some saw its gyrations as threatening, assuming the stick wanted a fight. Some took on a nurturing role, one going so far as to attempt petting the robot as if it was a strangely shaped hamster or something.
This isn't pareidolia, where we look at random shapes and see human faces. The stick in question has no external markings that could be mistaken for anything. We just see it moving around at random and we want to believe that it's interacting with us. If this sounds crazy, it is. And if, like me, it reminds you of Beaker from The Muppets, maybe these test subjects aren't so crazy after all. [RobotStickVideo via BoingBoing]