There is more happening here than just the World Cup. Just take one example: This weekend was RoboCup, in which lots of little robots play, um, football.
Maybe that’s not so totally different. But it was a blast to watch. It turns out that cheering for two pairs of wobbly little two-foot-high robots as they totter down the field, look down at the ball, look up, look down, kick the ball, and promptly fall over is more fun than watching at least a third of the human games.
Was interesting to see how much just the rudiments of a human form — two legs, arms, and a head — elicited such a strong sense of identification from the audience. It’s pretty well established how the specific proportions of a baby’s head and eyes trigger a hard-wired “Aww, isn’t that cute” response. I’d love to see the same kind of study done on unsteadyÂ child-like movement. These robots had none of the traditional bio-indicators of cute, but the crowd (myself included) absolutely felt as warmly towards them as we would towards young children.