Report: Robotics for Society conference, day 2

By | February 4, 2007

KeeponThe second day of the Robotics for Society conference organized by the Vancouver Society for Cognitive Systems was as exciting as the first day.

The first speaker was Prof. Alan Mackworth from the University of British Columbia and currently president elect of AAAI. Mackworth started his talk with Asimov’s three laws of robotics and the issue of how to actually design robots that obey them. He then presented his work on the Constraint Based Agent (CBA) framework that provides a language for specifying constraints such as the three laws as well as a mechanism for selecting agent actions such that these constraints are always satisfied. Mackworth admitted that there is still much work that needs to be done before we have the tools to create such CBA agents.

The second speaker was Prof. Hideki Kozima from NiCT, Japan. Kozima presented his work on 2 robots the Infanoid and Keepon. The robots are designed to be social and used for therapeutic and pedagogical applications. Kozima’s group has performed a number of field studies with groups of children having developmental disorders including autism.

The second half of the day included two very interesting talks by professors Stefan Schaal from USC and Masaaki Honda from Waseda University, Japan. Schaal presented much of his work on computational motor control for humanoid robots including how they use reinforcement learning to teach the robots how to complete difficult tasks such as balancing a pole and playing tennis. Honda presented the 6th generation of their state-of-the-art talking head capable of mimicking human speech production.

Richard Rosenberg from UBC closed the day with a short talk about robot ethics. His talk was mostly designed to get people thinking about robot ethics rather than providing answers for any of the important questions such as who is responsible if a robot kills a human being. He said that it was fortunate that even though complex intelligent robots are not likely to be available for many decades people are already talking about the implications of their existence. He compared this with the rise of the computer and all the issues about privacy and security that have become commonplace today but people did not consider until after computers became popular and maybe, by then, it was a bit too late.