So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning

Why do machines need Social Learning?

As an introductory post, I thought I’d give a little motivation for Social Machine Learning and explain why it is one of the key challenges that stands in the way of Robots for Everyone…

By Robots for Everyone we’re talking about the commonsense version of robotics that the average consumer has in mind. Books and movies have long told us what these robots are going to do for us (clean our houses, do our chores, make our lives easier). But perhaps more importantly, these stories have also been about how these machines are supposed to interact with us and fit into our world. Thus, the average consumer expects that in the future they will have robots that will be able to communicate, cooperate, collaborate, and generally coexist in our human culture.

Several realms of academia and industry are actively at work toward the goal of consumer robotics, and future posts will go in to detail about some of these endevours. However, a key problem remains unsolved: social learning will be crucial to the successful application of robots in everyday human environments. Imagine a company building a ‘Helpful Assistant Robot’. It will be impossible for the company to pre-program at the factory all of the knowledge and skills these machines will need to be useful. What the ‘Helpful Assistant Robot’ really needs is the ability to learn new skills and tasks from everyday people, not robotics experts.

While recognizing the success of current machine learning techniques over the years, these techniques have not been designed for learning from non-expert people and are generally not suited for it ‘out of the box’. And, designing algorithms that are well-suited for human interaction is not generally a topic of standard Machine Learning (ML) research. Human interaction with technology is studied in entirely different fields (Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Human-Robot Interaction (HRI)).

And this brings us to Social Machine Learning. We, as a research community, need to bridge the gap between ML research and HCI/HRI research. My belief is that Machine Learning and Human-Machine Interaction can be mutually beneficial. The ability for a machine learning system to utilize and leverage social interaction should be thought of as more than just a good interface technique for people; it can positively impact the underlying learning mechanisms to let the system succeed in a real-time interactive learning session.

July 12th, 2006 Posted by | HCI, Machine Learning | no comments

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