Scientific Breakthroughs

Computer Scientists Work to Overcome AI Robot’s Lack of Social Intelligence

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Computer Scientists Work to Overcome AI Robot's Lack of Social Intelligence
PHOTOGRAPH: Stanford University | Stanford University scientists have set out to teach a robot not to bump into other pedestrians and not to be awkward in public.

Intelligent search is fundamental to most life on earth, said Dan Hurley, American medical journalist and author of the book Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power.  These days, scientists are creating feeling robots and teaching them not only to explore but to adopt human-level social intelligence. 

That means being able to handle social interaction. In an attempt to address artificial intelligence’s social awkwardness, a  Stanford University team of computer scientists created the Jackrabbot, a one-meter-high robot capable of traveling up to five miles per hour.

Alexandre Alahi, a research associate in Stanford’s Computational Vision and Geometry Lab, said that beyond detecting pedestrians, an AI robot should be “able to develop systems that can make decisions with respect to human behavior, and be able to read human behavior” just like real people. The software for such a robot can be used for technologies of the future, including autonomous cars and robotic caregivers.

Teaching Jackrabbot

Stanford’s robotic creation has motion sensors and a software that uses an algorithm based on hours of aerial video footage of high-traffic sidewalks. Jackrabbot was tested in Stanford’s busy campus (and later on, in other crowded environments), and was programmed to make on-the-fly judgments about right-of-way as well as to consider people’s personal space.

In other news, more research has been poured (since last year) to create artificial general intelligence with a human-like psychological framework, and to model AI after a human’s neurological makeup. One robotic innovation from Aldebaran Robotics, with facial recognition software, not only makes eye contact but also responds when spoken to.

Possibilities of AI With Empathy

That robot has wended its way to classrooms to aid autistic kids. The same Japanese firm came out with a new robot named Pepper that can decipher words, show facial expressions and body language, and respond appropriately

Pepper is not a feeling robot, though. It has yet to learn self-awareness that requires the ability to feel what others are feeling and to think about those sentiments.

Said Murray Shanahan, a professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London, a surefire way to make sure robots and AI stay on the helpful side is to imbue them with empathy. That may not be happening just yet, but cognitive robotic experts like Shanahan believe it is possible.

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