So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning

Ok, How about a Virtual Robot?

ICT Virtual Humans Sophie's Kitchen Symon NERO

There are a number of reasons that virtual agents (as opposed to physical robotic agents) are interesting for research on social machine learning.

* All the human interaction, without the mess. Now that’s not exactly true. But AI research with virtual agents or video game characters seems like a great way to focus on the problems of social intelligence without having to solve other hard problems first (computer vision, navigation, manipulation, etc.). These virtual agents have to be able to intelligently interact with real human players, and many relevant issues of embodiment are still there in the virtual domain. For example, communicating attentional focus with a human partner.

* Video games are popular! So there’s a real opportunity to build AI characters (NPCs: non-player characters) and put them to the test with real people. In particular, MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) are a huge opportunity to develop an AI character in an environment where social interaction and social intelligence are a number one priority.

* …and oh yeah, it has to be fun! So, the issue of engagement cannot be ignored. In order for the virtual agent to learn something new from a human player, the human player has to enjoy the interaction, it has to be rewarding and fun to teach. Developing such engagement strategies is important and will hopefully transfer to the robot learning agents as well.

I was just at this conference, Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2006), which prompted me to articulate the research questions that Social Machine Learning can tackle in the virtual domain

The conference didn’t have much on social learning agents in particular, but a lot of interesting work on socially interacting agents. A few of the most interesting topics included: emotionally intelligent behavior, recognizing human behavior, how humans perceive the behavior of a virtual agent, generating gestures and nonverbal behavior.

This was my first year to attend IVA and I was struck by the similarity of research questions in this virtual domain to those we are tackling in the Human-Robot Interaction domain as well. Both fields would do well to have a bit more cross pollination. Then we could start getting some of these robotic agents into game worlds and some of these game agents into the real world…fun!

August 30th, 2006 Posted by | Conferences, HCI | no comments

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