Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We've built a robot child that can weep and bleed on command, at last

Illustration for article titled We've built a robot child that can weep and bleed on command, at last
Photo: Chris Weeks (Getty Images)

Fulfilling the grand, dystopian dreams of playwright Karel Čapek—whose 1920 work R.U.R. introduced both the word “robot,” and the concept of people being dicks to robots, to the world—science has finally delivered unto us a robot boy who can bleed and cry on command. Per Wired, Hal—which, c’mon, people, can we at least try to have a robot uprising that’s not quite so thoroughly on the nose?—wasn’t designed specifically for synthetic-targeting sadists; rather, it’s been created as an aid for medical students so that they can get used to the common medical issues of a convulsing, agonized robot boy.

Here, have some nightmare fuel:

Hal was built to suffer. He is a medical training robot, the sort of invention that emerges when one of the most stressful jobs on Earth tumbles into the uncanny valley. No longer must nurses train on lifeless mannequins. Hal can shed tears, bleed, and urinate. If you shine a light in his eyes, his pupils shrink. You can wirelessly control him to go into anaphylactic shock or cardiac arrest. You can hook him up to real hospital machines, and even jolt him with a defibrillator.


That’s right, Christmas shoppers: The weeping robot child can also be programmed to piss itself. And while $48,000 is kind of a steep price to pay to teach Little Timmy about the miracles of quasi-life, just imagine the look of enduring horror you’ll inflict on your kids the first time Hal starts to writhe realistically on the floor, fluids akimbo.

What’s that? You’re wondering why there isn’t a baby version of this artificial horrorshow? Oh, gentle, naive readers. Of course there’s a baby version. Meet Super Tory!

And look, we know that, objectively, training devices like these are a great idea, making it less likely that medical practitioners screw up when they’re working on actual kid. (One of the interesting points the Wired piece makes is that children are often hesitant to express their symptoms to doctors and nurses, so Hal is designed to be able to express his pain through facial expressions and physical reactions.) But, on the other hand, “Medical trainees can even cut a small slit in his throat to practice inserting a tracheal tube to re-establish an airway.” And hey, you know you’ve made a good dummy when the people operating it have to deliberately dial down the creep factor to keep the people training on it from freaking the fuck out:

We can amp the stress level up so high for the participants that people will cry, essentially have to drop out of the scenario. I do think there’s a good potential that we’ll see more of that emotional type response when the mannequin is so realistic.

Oh, hey, one more quote: “If you like, you can even speak through the robot, with a system that turns your voice into that of a 5-year-old.” Hey, cool. We’re out!