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ACM TechNews

Teaching Robots Some Manners

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Asimo robot presents tray


People are more likely to adapt to and use robots if they behave more like humans, even if that means they operate less efficiently.

For example, researchers at ATR laboratories in Japan recently tested how long of a response people preferred when giving commands to robots. Robots that are programmed to wait before completing a task are considered more welcome than those that respond immediately. "In the interaction with the robot, what is efficient is that the robot follows the norms of the conversation, which includes a seemingly inefficient one-second delay," says the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Bilge Mutlu.

University of Washington researchers Peter Henry and Christian Vollmer are developing ways to help robots learn to move through a crowd as humans do. Instead of pre-programming fixed instructions, they believe it is easier to drop a robot untrained into the real world, but equip it with the ability to study and mimic the behavior of those around it. "If a human takes a geometrically longer route avoiding the crowd, our planner would learn to do the same thing," Henry says.

From New Scientist
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