Science

Columbia University engineers design a robot that shows basic empathy

Engineers at Columbia University have created a robot that can visually predict how a partner robot will behave. Engineers say the robot showed a glimmer of sympathy. This hack could help robots get along with other robots and humans more intuitively in the future. The bot learned to predict the future actions and goals of the partner bot based on just a few initial video frames.

Expecting what others nearby will do is something that comes naturally to humans, makes it easier for us to live and work together. Predicting future movements is a huge challenge to robots that the robots have not been able to. Columbia Engineering Researchers It was part of a broader effort to help robots understand and anticipate the targets of other robots using visual feedback.

Researchers built a robot and placed it in a kindergarten about 3 feet by 2 feet. The robot is programmed to search and move towards any green circle it can see. The catch was that sometimes the robot could see a green circle with its camera and move straight towards it, but other times the green circle is blocked by a tall cardboard box. In those cases, the robot will either move towards a different green circle or it will not move at all.

The second robot noticed its partner in motion for about 2 hours, and the surveillance robot began to anticipate its partners’ target and path. The robot observer was finally able to predict the path of the partner robot 98 out of 100 times across different situations without explicitly telling it to impede the partner’s robot’s vision. An observing robot can sympathize with its partner and understand without directing whether or not its partner can see the green circle from its point of view, showing a rudimentary form of empathy.

Researchers admit that robot empathy is much simpler than human behaviors and goals. However, they believe this may be the start of giving robots the tool cognitive scientists know as “theory of mind.”

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