So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning


ro-man 07
I recently got back from the RO-MAN conference in Korea, here’s the hightlights.

Language Learning KeynoteLuc Steels gave a nice talk about language learning. His goal is for machines to be able to really speak and understand language, and his approach is that of emergent communication. The idea is that language is never perfect, people communicate by continually repairing misunderstandings and continually building up a common ground or common language, “inventing” new terms, etc. This is much different than a corpus based machine learning approach that assumes a stationary environment and other such things. So, his platform for studying this kind of emergent language development, or learning all the time approach for language, is language games for robots. He has some interesting examples with QRIO robots. It was a bit unclear how the all important repair phase was instigated or took place. But it’s great to see such an interactive alternative to natural language processing.

Human-Robot Interactive Teaching — I was in a session organized by Joe Sanders and Chystopher Nehaniv. You can read more about my talk. I enjoyed Sylvain Calinon’s talk in the session about “Active Teaching”. There are a lot of people working on robot “Learning by Imitation” But his work addresses an important question about the nature of an imitation interaction. Human imitation learning is an active process. Someone is teaching you something, they demonstrate it, you try it, you get it wrong, they go into more detail on a particular aspect, and on and on. Sylvain has some nice work on teaching a robot a task by showing it the physical movement. It then copies the movement, and you can stop the robot and select particular motors, and physically move it through the motion during the correction process. There’s more work to be done on the interaction, and I don’t think they’ve tried it with non-expert users yet. But this is work to keep an eye on.

The Uncanny Valley — I’m sorry, but I missed the uncanny valley boat. I understand the qualitative assessment that there is a class of things (like zombies, and almost human things) that people find creepy. And that many robots fall into this category either by the way they look or the way they behave. But from what I have seen and read, it seems that we all basically agree that 2 dimensions are really not enough to represent what it is that people find creepy. And that this 2-d graph of Mori’s is not based on quantitative data that we can measure our robots against. So, I’m always amazed at how many people show graphs of the uncanny valley in their talks. Someone, please enlighten me in the comments, why should I care about this uncanny valley graph?

Robot design workshop — This session was one of the better ones that I saw. Prof. Myung Suk Kim has a lab at KAIST that does some great work on robot design. He gave a presentation giving an overview of the work going on in his lab. Jodi Forlizzi talked about 5 aspects of designing for HRI: gaze (social attention), speech/sound, gesture, motion, and personality. And Tomotaka Takahashi, a PhD student at Kyoto university, gave a talk about two robots that he has built, the Chroino and the FT (for female type…). They are pretty cute, and the Chroino was licensed and developed into a product: Manoi.

AUR won — Guy’s robot, the AUR robotic lamp, won the robot design competition!

Four Keepons dancing! — Hideki Kozima and Marek Michalowski had a nice showing in the demonstrations event, four keepon robots side-by-side dancing away and interacting with people. They were in the middle of a Keepon tour, first winning the Robots at Play design competition in Denmark, then RO-MAN, and now they’re at NextFest in LA with Wired. Wired likes Keepon so much they did a response video with Spoon. It’s good clean robot fun.

Meeting a reader — I met one of the readers of this blog, which doesn’t happen in person very often, so that was fun!  She was concerned that I’m going to quit blogging once I get busy with the new job.  But, that’s not the intention, I plan to make time to keep the Social Robot research conversation going in the blog-o-sphere.

I really liked Korea, the people were extremely friendly. I will definitely have to make a trip back, perhaps to visit Robot Land!

September 11th, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

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