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By Christoph Salge, Marie Curie Global Fellow, University of Hertfordshire

How do you stop a robot from hurting people? Many existing robots, such as those assembling cars in factories, shut down immediately when a human comes near. But this quick fix wouldn’t work for something like a self-driving car that might have to move to avoid a collision, or a care robot that might need to catch an old person if they fall. With robots set to become our servants, companions and co-workers, we need to deal with the increasingly complex situations this will create and the ethical and safety questions this will raise.

Here are the slides I gave recently as member of panel Sci-Fi Dreams: How visions of the future are shaping the development of intelligent technology, at the Centre for the Future of Intelligence 2017 conference. I presented three short stories about robot stories.

Advances in robotics and AI have led to modern commercial drone technology, which is changing the fundamental way enterprises interact with the world. Drones bridge the physical and digital worlds. They enable companies to combine the power of scalable computing resources with pervasive, affordable sensors that can go anywhere. This creates an environment in which businesses can make quick, accurate decisions based on enormous datasets derived from the physical world.

by   -   June 20, 2017

Judging by the frequency that self-driving cars are mentioned in scientific discussions and the media, they are not only the next big thing, but might actually take over as our main means of transportation. Traditional industries like the railways, on the other hand, seem to have lost that race already. But what if new technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices and Artificial Intelligence (AI), were not only used to create new transportation modes, but to transform old ones as well?

The device named “Spark” flew high above the man on stage with his hands waving in the direction of the flying object. In a demonstration of DJI’s newest drone, the audience marveled at the Coke can-sized device’s most compelling feature: gesture controls. Instead of a traditional remote control, this flying selfie machine follows hand movements across the sky. Gestures are the most innate language of mammals, and including robots in our primal movements means we have reached a new milestone of co-existence.

The market for agricultural robots has the opportunity for significant expansion: the farming world needs to increase global production whilst it also faces challenges such as reduced availability and the rising costs of farm labour.

Last week I had the pleasure of debating the question “does AI pose a threat to society?” with friends and colleagues Christian List, Maja Pantic and Samantha Payne. The event was organised by the British Academy and brilliantly chaired by the Royal Society’s director of science policy Claire Craig. Here follows my opening statement:

by   -   April 29, 2017

Engineers and researchers are already speculating about the next phase of UI development, especially for robotics control. So far, the leading candidate is gesture-based control—the use of physical gestures to relay commands.

by   -   April 27, 2017

Delivery robots are touted as gaining widespread popularity in the near future. Wheeled models could be suitable for urban areas, while UAVs have great potential in accessing difficult areas and carrying a variety of payloads. But first we have to overcome technical barriers, safety issues and more than a few legal aspects.

Robots are the technology of the future. But the current legal system is incapable of handling them. This generic statement is often the premise for considerations about the possibility of awarding rights (and liabilities) to these machines at some, less-than clearly identified, point in time. Discussing the adequacy of existing regulation in accommodating new technologies is certainly necessary, but the ontological approach is incorrect. Andrea Bertolini explains.

A new report from Navigant Research includes the chart shown below, ranking various teams on the race to robocar deployment. It’s causing lots of press headlines about how Ford is the top company and companies like Google and Uber are far behind. I elected not to buy the $3,800 report, but based on the summary I believe their conclusions are ill founded to say the least.

CBS News profiled a New Jersey vertical farm providing baby kale, arugula, spinach and romaine to nearby Newark and NYC groceries. They boast 130 times more productivity, 95% less water and no pesticides versus field farms. And they harvest 24 times a year, rain, snow or shine.

University students experiment with human-robot interaction and autonomous manipulation, two elements of manufacturing’s future. Nikolaus Correll, CC BY-ND

America’s manufacturing heyday is gone, and so are millions of jobs, lost to modernization. Despite what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin might think, the National Bureau of Economic Research and Silicon Valley executives, among many others, know it’s already happening. And a new report from PwC estimates that 38 percent of American jobs are at “high risk” of being replaced by technology within the next 15 years. The ConversationBut how soon automation will replace workers is not the real problem. The real threat to American jobs will come if China does it first.

The law currently recognizes individuals like you and me. Also companies, organizations and governments can negotiate agreements and liability. These non-natural persons are represented by real people (they should be controlled after all). But what about autonomous systems that take over tasks and make intelligent decisions that might be interpreted as a legal act?

While Asimov’s laws are organised around the moral value of preventing harm to humans, they are not easy to interpret. We need to stop viewing them as an adequate ethical basis for robotic interactions with people, argues Tom Sorell.

Robot Academy
July 22, 2017

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