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Robots get a human touch

teaching-robots-social-skills-thefutureparty
Teaching robots // Illustration by Kate Walker

Robots get a human touch

 

The Future. MIT researchers have developed a way to teach robots social skills, such as learning to help humans or other robots complete tasks when they’re in need. The findings may be a significant step toward introducing robots into the greater workforce.

Social science
A group of MIT researchers are teaching robots some social cues.

  • The researchers released a paper that details how they taught robots how to better talk with each other.
  • They did this by creating “a simulated 2D environment that allowed virtual robots to pursue both social and physical goals.”
  • They created 98 different scenarios to test — for example; a robot could be tasked with finding a tree and then determining whether another robot needs help watering it.
  • The robot would be rewarded for completing the goals or punished if it didn’t.

Technical touch
The researchers hope that increased awareness of social skills in robots could improve “human-robot interactions.” This could be helpful in assisted-living facilities, on factory floors, or at checkout counters (the day is coming). Andrei Barbu, a senior author of the papers, said that his team would like to “dig deeper into the human aspect of this.”

Additionally, Meta’s AI division reportedly created sensors that allow robots to “feel” what they are touching — an important stepping stone to help robots know how much pressure is appropriate to pick up a small pill or a large box. Thankfully, Meta is keeping that research open source.

With these new developments, it’s hard not to imagine we’re one step closer to iRobot or A.I. Artificial Intelligence with these new developments.