Intel anthropologist says humans forming deeper relationships with their gadgets

Having an anthropologist working for Intel is interesting enough, but there’s more: this sociologist argues humans are having more social interaction with their electronic devices.

Bell, who is set to speak Thursday at Intel’s developer forum in San Francisco, says the first step is the creation of devices like the Moto X that have always-on sensors listening for our commands.

“There’s an implicit promise in the listening,” Bell told AllThingsD in an interview on Wednesday.

Bell said she started thinking about this notion after watching a YouTube video of a Furby attempting to interact with Apple’s Siri.

Of course, many devices today still have trouble comprehending what we are saying, let alone caring about us. But the tie between us and our devices is clearly growing, Bell says, if we have reached a point that people sleep with their smartphones within arm’s reach. The shift from personal devices to devices with which we truly have a relationship will take time, she said, perhaps a decade or more.

In her travels around the world, Bell says, people often describe their smartphones in highly personalized ways. Bell recalls one person saying of her phone, “I fight with it sometimes, but we make up, and I know it will always have my back.”

Interesting. This argument seems similar to that made by Sherry Turkle in Alone Together. Turkle describes years of research examining how children have social interactions with electronic devices, like Furbies and Tamagotchi. She found kids can form close bonds and had a really difficult time when the device was taken away or worse, died.