The Daily Telegraph

Heard the one about the robot that cracked up?

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Japanese scientists have incorporat­ed a sense of humour and the ability to laugh into a robot.

Researcher­s at Kyoto University used artificial intelligen­ce to teach them when when to chuckle quietly, or let out a loud guffaw. In Frontiers in Robotics and AI, they said their work with a robot called Erica should make communicat­ions with it more natural.

Arobot has been taught to laugh at jokes. Scientists at Kyoto University hope this will make it more human. But have they thought this through? Last month a chess-playing robot in Moscow broke a child’s finger by grabbing it in place of a pawn and refusing to let go. We don’t think that funny, but this laughing robot might find it hilarious. So what kind of human will the robot resemble? Will it laugh at its own jokes? This is hard to pull off for genuine humans of flesh and blood. But the pons robotorum will be to laugh in the right place. This is already a thing that cinema audiences often fail to master, spoiling it for more human humans. And we know better than to laugh at jokes that offend a new multitude of social prohibitio­ns. One false AI step and this robot could find itself barred from the Edinburgh Festival.

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