Ikea makes furniture and household goods, not technology. And yet, the Swedish company’s external innovation lab, Space10, is launching a global survey meant to gauge people’s thoughts about artificial intelligence. Central to the survey’s mission is helping Space10 and Ikea understand what form consumers want AI to take.
Should AI reflect each individual’s worldview? Should it live only on our phones or in our homes, or should it permeate the environment we live in? Should it be able to read and react to our emotions? These are the questions that AI designers and engineers are already asking about the machine learning-enabled technologies–and now Ikea wants to ask the rest of us, as well.
The survey, called Do You Speak Human?, launches today in Barcelona, Spain, where Space10 has set up voting booths for people to take the survey (they’ll travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, next). But the survey is also available online, accompanied by the familiar characters Ikea uses in its assembly instructions.
Ikea itself is already moving toward technology products, particularly with smart home gadgets like its recently launched lighting system and accompanying app. And internally, the company is striving to think more like a software company, most recently launching its open-source Delaktig couch, which will hit American stores next year. But Space10 says that while the ethics of AI are discussed internally, it was important to get the perspectives of more people, consistent with the organization’s focus on research.
While only a few hundred people have submitted results so far, the takeaways are intriguing: Generally speaking, people prefer an AI that appears to be human, that’s gendered male, that reflects their worldview, and should be able to read their emotions. People broadly prefer an AI that is motherly and protective rather than purely obedient or more autonomous and challenging.
Space10 says that it will share the results of the survey after analyzing the data, which it plans to use to inform future products. Soon enough, perhaps you’ll be able to pick up an artificially intelligent kitchen island to go with your flatpack bookshelf.