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That’s when he first came up with the idea for a companion robot: a machine that could look after his dad and keep him in touch with the outside world via webcam.Hines started working on a prototype, but ran into trouble finding financial and legal support for the project. As Hines deadpanned in an interview with Hines’s story is a good allegory for the wider landscape of care robots: five years later, sexbots, though not yet exactly flying off shelves, have stoked enough cultural interest to inflame a widely covered campaign to ban them.The importance of that was revealed earlier this year when pictures showed that Mark Zuckerberg had covered the webcam on his Mac Book Pro.Now those warnings have been backed by FBI director James Comey, who says that it is one of the “sensible things” that people can do.Both are mechanised stand-ins for roles that are typically undervalued and ill-treated in society, with neither ethically straightforward to replace.Neither will work without a robot that can move around on its own and do some heavy lifting.The FBI has advised everyone to cover up their computers’ webcams to stop them being spied on.Leaving webcams open means that hackers can break into them and watch everything that users are doing, security experts have claimed.

In the early 2000s, the former Bell Labs engineer was busy caring for his elderly father and building his own technology business.

However, in difficult moments they flip the script – asking us to relinquish control, human connection and our fantasies about ourselves.

Every day, carebots will run into hundreds of small moral dilemmas: their owner decides not to take today’s prescribed medication; she keeps leaving the stove on, or wandering out of the house and down a street heaving with traffic; or he commits a crime in full view of a watchful mechanical eye, as in the film , in which an ageing thief recruits his carebot as an accomplice.

Previous leaks have suggested that governments including the US have likely tapped into webcams as a way of gathering information on citizens.

Mr Comey said that all government offices cover up the cameras and that normal citizens should be doing the same.

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