In 1999, Freedom Baird was in grad school, and Furbies--those furry little robot toys that talk to you and tell you to play with them--were all the rage. So Freedom, who was thinking about becoming a mom someday, decided to get a little practice by adopting two gerbils and one Furby. And that led to a chance discovery...and an idea for an experiment that Freedom believed could serve as a kind of emotional Turing test, a way to ask whether machines are more alive than dolls.
In order to test Freedom's idea, we gathered up a Barbie, a hamster named Gerbie, and a Furby. Then, we invited five brave kids into the studio: Taro Higashi Zimmerman, Luisa Tripoli-Krasnow, Sadie Kathryn McGearey, Olivia Tate McGearey, Lila Cipolla, and Turin Cipolla.
We ran our results by Caleb Chung, the man who created Furby. And according to Caleb, the reason Furby gets under our skin is simple...but Jad and Robert aren't ready to buy his explanation. Sherry Turkle returns to help us think about what's going on.
Gerbie the hamster, who lives happily with Lila and Turin and has been renamed June.