Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) is banking on becoming a leader in a growing field of study: the ethical dimensions of advanced technology.
So, of course, the school had to get a robot.
At 11 a.m. Friday (Feb. 14), weather permitting, the conservative Christian seminary in Matthews will unveil its new 23-inch-tall NAO humanoid robot. SES will also announce details then of a contest to name the ultra-modern critter.
Faculty and students will use the robot to do research on the ethical dilemmas that can pop up with the use of such advanced technology in everyday life.
Kevin Staley, an associate professor of theology at the seminary, is spearheading the NAO (pronounced "Now") robot research. He's an expert in the application of a Biblical worldview to moral issues, including those surrounding robotics, artificial intelligence and human enhancement technologies.
In the Christian Apologetics Journal, Staley authored a piece titled "Moral Perspectives for a Possible Posthuman Future."
Still not sure what they're talking about?
The research involving the robot is expected to focus on such questions as: Should robots do our jobs? Should they care for humans in a hospital or nursing home? And would such care take away the human touch and violate human ethics?
The NAO humanoid robot was created by Aldebaran Robotics, a French company based in Paris. He/She/It is programmable, with electric motors, a sensor network, two cameras, four microphones, a sonar rangefinder, two infrared emitters and receivers, a voice synthesizer, LED lights, and two high-fidelity speakers.
These NAO robots have been used in research schools and labs around the world, including at MIT, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon and Tokyo University.
SES is apparently the first seminary to get one.
Here's a video of the robot in action.
Professor Staley and Richard Land, the seminary's president, will convene the unveiling on the first floor of the school's main building, 3000 Tilley Morris Road.
Live streaming is available. Call 610-584-1096 for details.
-- Tim Funk