Ever wonder how Barack Obama manages to look so much more professional and convincing on stage than off it? Or did you wonder how the British Tories managed to find a great speechmaker in David Cameron having not had one for a generation?
The answer has finally been revealed: they use presentation robots.
Developed at Osaka University in Japan, humanoid robots have been around for a few years, getting more and more realistic all the time. The extent of their use in the public sphere, however, will shock and astound you.
The first test use of a robot to make a public presentation was at Obama’s now-legendary Democratic Convention speech in July 2004. The results were beyond even the creators’ wildest dreams: a man coming from nowhere had imposed himself as a leading Presidential candidate in the space of a single speech.
Realising the power of a great speaker and the brilliance of this Ro-Bama, the Democratic Party had to have it, and they signed an exclusivity agreement which would block the Kansai boffins from creating any robots for the Republicans. We all know the results: Ro-bama wiped the floor with the all-too-human John McCain.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Tories went one step further, and actually bought a robot to lead the party. Want to know what David Cameron did before leading the Tories? Of course the spin doctors fabricated a nice life story, but really his only history was as bits of metal in a Japanese lab. Ever see him with a bad hair day? Now you know why.
Naturally this opens up major ethical and social questions. Is it appropriate for us to be led by robots? Will this lead to a Matrix-like society where humans are merely used for our productive ability, in complete subservience and ignorant of what’s really happening in the corridors of power? Or won’t it actually make any difference?
There are many advantages of using robots to make speeches, at least. You can program them not to um and ah. You can ensure they don’t read your slides. You can also set them to use an appropriate level of eye contact with your audience. If every presenter could master those items, the world would be a less boring place.
So perhaps we will see more and more robots being used to replace boring and amateur presenters. Next time you see your CEO making a presentation, check whether it all looks just too polished. Maybe you have a robo-CEO too.
But remember: the technology still has its limitations. When French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked the Japanese for a robot to make his speeches, they had to decline. Even the masters of miniaturization couldn’t make a speaking robot that small…
[EDIT: Just in case anyone didn’t realise the date of this post, it was on April 1st 2010… Any truth in this post is entirely accidental!]