Standing just under a foot tall, Irony Man looks unassuming, if not a bit goofy. The small robot was created by German researchers to improve the experience humans have interacting with robots. To make this possible, Irony Man was created with the ability to understand what irony is—and dish it out.
That's right: Now there's a robot who can sass you as well as any teenager.
The idea behind the ironic robot was that it could deliver bad news without being rude
"In human-human conversation, irony occurs in a natural manner," André tells Popular Mechanics. "Irony may help create a more pleasant atmosphere by conveying critical information, such as complaints, in a less direct manner."
Irony Man has built-in facial markers that allow it to respond with a physical reaction (winking, eye rolling, etc.) in addition to its verbal reaction.
Verbal markers such as intonation, prosody, and emphasis are what allow Irony Man to imbue sarcasm into conversation. But the robot doesn't yet have the ability to determine when to turn the irony off, which could result in a negative user experience.
So far, though, the researchers say people are reacting well to Irony Man.
"We found that many users perceive robots that adopt human styles of communication as more attractive and acceptable," André says. "If used appropriately, irony may also improve interaction between humans and robots."