13 Experts Weigh in on What We Should Teach Robots

Anca Dragan of UC Berkeley, left; Maria Bauza of MIT, center; Ashwin Dani of UConn, right

We’ve reached a critical point in the development of robots. As robots become more and more common in our everyday lives, scientists and researchers are beginning to ask if we’re adequately preparing the machines for co-existing with humans.

If we’re to live peacefully alongside robots, and if robots are to reach their full potential, there are certain lessons they’ll need to be taught. Here are just some of the lessons robots need to learn, according to the experts currently working on cutting-edge machines.

1. “We have to be able to give them goals and have them generate behavior on their own.” – George Konidaris

Teaching a machine to live alongside humans means that nothing can be taken for granted, no matter how obvious a certain set of information might seem. It’s imperative to give robots the capacity to understand the world in which they operate in the most basic sense.

That’s why Brown University’s George Konidaris is concerned with creating robots who can interact with the world around them, and learn through action rather than pure coding.

Brown and MIT have worked together on a project that saw a robot using basic motor skills to learn to solve problems. This research could be key in creating robots that can complete a variety of tasks, without the requirement of specific programming to facilitate each task.

2. “Research on robot hugs is important so we can one day use technology to provide the emotional support and health benefits of hugs to many people, wherever or whenever they need it.” – Alexis Block

Robots need to learn how to hug. At least, that’s according to Alexis Block, who recently co-authored a study on the use of robots as emotional support for humans. Block worked on the HuggieBot project, which saw the development of a robot that could provide affection and comfort.

It might sound silly, but there’s a wealth of science backing up the importance of hugs. Regular physical affection can lower blood pressure and increase levels of oxytocin. A huggable robot would be of great benefit to the elderly and those living alone.

3. “This line of work could facilitate true robotic personal assistants in the future.” – Qiao Wang

We all hope that someday robots will make our lives easier. How great would it be if a robot did all your chores for you? That’s exactly what Qiao Wang, from the Arizona State University, has been working towards.

Wang believes that robots should be taught to recognize and replicate chores by observing human activity. Rather than having specific chores programmed, the robots could then focus on specific tasks and adapt as needed. Wang is of the opinion that this is the best way to develop robots that can help us in the home.

4. “If the robot could touch the object, have a notion of tactile information, and be able to react to that information, it will have much more success.” – Maria Bauza

Winner of the 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge, and current MIT PhD candidate Maria Bauza, believes that tactile learning is a must when it comes to the development of robots. Bauza stresses the importance of robots being able to feel and gather tactile data from the objects they interact with in order to successfully navigate the world around them.

This belief forms the core of Bauza’s work, which seeks to develop machine-learning algorithms with an aim towards allowing robots to glean information from their surroundings. Research like hers is key towards giving robots an understanding of objects they come in contact with, with which they might have no prior experience.

5. “Our goal is to develop methods and metrics that would enable autonomous systems to assess their own performance.” – Professor Holly Yanco

If robots are to become a permanent fixture in our society, they’ll require a great deal of maintenance in order to stay in top condition. For this reason, it’s important to teach robots to self-diagnose any issues, and to be aware of any mistakes they make. Professor Holly Yanco, from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, believes that robots must be taught to self-assess.

Read the source article at Interesting Engineering.