Understanding the Digital Companions of Our Future Generation
Chandra-Kruse, Leona; Bergener, Katrin; Conboy, Kieran; Lundström, Jenny Eriksson; Maedche, Alexander; Sarker, Suprateek; Seeber, Isabella; Stein, Armin; Tømte, Cathrine E.
The main protagonist in Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel is Klara, an artificial friend whose existential goal is to be children’s companion. Some aspects of this fictional narrative have begun to gradually enter our daily lives. Products reminiscent of Klara are available abundantly on the market: smart toys, adaptive learning applications, and companion robots. Children can relate to these products and perform activities together with them. Preliminary research has shown fundamental differences between existing technologies and these emerging children’s digital companions. However, we still do not know much about their benefits and risks. This paper explores different and even contradicting perspectives on the phenomenon. We present the discussion from four perspectives - temporality, use, trust and ethics, and sociotechnical design - and conclude the paper with an agenda for interdisciplinary IS research. The agenda points to the needs for a psychological, medical, engineering, and temporal research community to understand this emerging sociotechnical phenomenon and design its future for the better.
Children’s Digital Companion; Embodied Conversational Agents; Responsible Artificial Intelligence; Children Interaction With Digital Technologies;