NC seminary unveils humanoid robot for students’ ethical studies

The NAO robot. Photo courtesy of Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College

The NAO robot. Photo courtesy of Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College

What ultimately defines a person? Could a person fall in love with a robot or a computer operating system, as in the popular movie Her?

Could a robot tend patients in hospitals or nursing homes?

Or could a robot, say, teach an ethics or Christian apologetics class?

These seminal questions of existence are what Kevin Staley, associate professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College in Matthews, N.C., hopes the Christian school can explore with the help of a humanoid NAO robot (pronounced ‘now’).

Claiming the 22-year-old Christian apologetics school is the first seminary in the world to use a robot to study the ethics of emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, transhumanism and nanotechnology, Southern plans to unveil its NAO robot at a ceremony on Friday (Feb. 14). The robot usually retails for $16,000 but cost Southern $9,300.

The white robot with an orange cap from the French company Aldebaran Robotics stands 23 inches high and includes voice and facial recognition, full mobility and translates text-to-speech in seven languages. Individuals and schools such as MIT, Tokyo University, and Carnegie MellonĀ and are experimenting with NAO robots as person