philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Seeing the mind of a robot in augmented reality

stefanietellex-4Some robots, like the Roomba vacuum cleaner, really need only one command—clean or stop. “That is the right interface for a Roomba, but we are seeing robots move beyond a single function. We’d like to be able to tell them anything that is within the robot’s physical capabilities,” says Tellex. “I am working on a system where you talk to the robot like a person. You say ‘Put the crate there’ and the robot figures it out.’”

In work presented last year, Tellex’s team used a voice interface to see if a person and a grasping robot could work together to pick from a group of similar objects on a table—including bowls, markers, and spoons. A command like “Can I have that bowl?” could leave the robot in doubt. So they programmed the robot to ask some clarifying questions, like “This one?”

The Brown group invited 16 volunteers into the lab and found that with such a mini-dialogue, the robots got the job done about 25 percent faster and with better accuracy. People also thought the robot was a lot smarter than it actually is.

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