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by   -   February 12, 2019

By Rohin Shah and Dmitrii Krasheninnikov

It would be great if we could all have household robots do our chores for us. Chores are tasks that we want done to make our houses cater more to our preferences; they are a way in which we want our house to be different from the way it currently is. However, most “different” states are not very desirable:

Surely our robot wouldn’t be so dumb as to go around breaking stuff when we ask it to clean our house? Unfortunately, AI systems trained with reinforcement learning only optimize features specified in the reward function and are indifferent to anything we might’ve inadvertently left out. Generally, it is easy to get the reward wrong by forgetting to include preferences for things that should stay the same, since we are so used to having these preferences satisfied, and there are so many of them. Consider the room below, and imagine that we want a robot waiter that serves people at the dining table efficiently. We might implement this using a reward function that provides 1 reward whenever the robot serves a dish, and use discounting so that the robot is incentivized to be efficient. What could go wrong with such a reward function? How would we need to modify the reward function to take this into account? Take a minute to think about it.

by   -   February 12, 2019

This week Washington DC was abuzz with news that had nothing to do with the occupant of The While House. A group of progressive legislators, led by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, in the House of Representatives, introduced “The Green New Deal.” The resolution by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was in response to the alarming Fourth National Climate Assessment and aims to reduce global “greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and net-zero global emissions by 2050.” While the bill is largely targeting the transportation industry, many proponents suggest that it would be more impactful, and healthier, to curb America’s insatiable appetite for animal agriculture.

University of California, Berkeley         


interview by   -   February 4, 2019



In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Jaime Fernández Fisac, a PhD student at University of California, Berkeley, in Anca Dragan’s InterACT Lab. Fisac is interested in ensuring that autonomous systems such as self-driving cars, delivery drones, and home robots can operate and learn in the world—while satisfying safety constraints. Towards this goal, Fisac discusses different examples of his work with unmanned aerial vehicles and talks about safe robot learning in general; including, the curse of dimensionality and how it impacts control problems (including how some systems can be decomposed into simpler control problems), how simulation can be leveraged before trying learning on a physical robot, safe sets, and how a robot can modify its behavior based on how confident it is that its model is correct.

by   -   January 25, 2019
OroBOT – Credit: Maxime Marendaz

Using the fossil and fossilized footprints of a 300-million-year-old animal, scientists from EPFL and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin have identified the most likely gaits of extinct animals and designed a robot that can recreate an extinct animal’s walk. This study can help researchers better understand how vertebrate locomotion evolved over time.

by   -   January 25, 2019

Cozmo robots and their corresponding tablets are being distributed to participants to take home so that they can interact with them for a week for an experiment being carried out by social robotics professor Emily Cross. Image credit – Ruud Hortensius and Emily Cross
By Frieda Klotz

People’s interactions with machines, from robots that throw tantrums when they lose a colour-matching game against a human opponent to the bionic limbs that could give us extra abilities, are not just revealing more about how our brains are wired – they are also altering them.

Emily Cross is a professor of social robotics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland who is examining the nature of human-robot relationships and what they can tell us about human cognition.

by   -   January 25, 2019
The Bell Helicopter tiltrotor, ducted fan hybrid aircraft had a giant crowd when the hall was open.

My feet are aching, as usual, after 3 days on the CES show floor, and the question people always ask others there is “what have you seen that was interesting?”

I won’t say I didn’t see anything interesting, and I had a large number of rewarding conversations with all sorts of companies, making the trip very worthwhile, but I will say I saw less that was new and exciting than ever before. This may be a result of the show’s constant growth that meant in 3 days I still did not manage to get to 3 1/2 major rooms of the show, putting my focus on cars as I usually do.

by   -   January 25, 2019

By Rob Matheson

A novel model developed by MIT and Microsoft researchers identifies instances in which autonomous systems have “learned” from training examples that don’t match what’s actually happening in the real world. Engineers could use this model to improve the safety of artificial intelligence systems, such as driverless vehicles and autonomous robots.

by   -   January 25, 2019

Developing countries must begin seriously considering how technological changes will impact labour trends. KC Jan/Shutterstock

By Asit K. Biswas, University of Glasgow and Kris Hartley, The Education University of Hong Kong

In the 21st century, governments cannot ignore how changes in technology will affect employment and political stability.

The automation of work – principally through robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT), collectively known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – will provide an unprecedented boost to productivity and profit. It will also threaten the stability of low- and mid-skilled jobs in many developing and middle-income countries.

interview by   -   January 20, 2019


In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Ryan Gariepy, Lars Grimstad, and Péter Fankhauser.

interview by   -   January 9, 2019



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Pauline Pound, Philippe Morere, and Yujung Liu about the work they presented at the 2018 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Madrid, Spain.

by   -   January 7, 2019

This biocompatible sensor is made from a non-toxic, highly conductive liquid solution that could be used in diagnostics, therapeutics, human-computer interfaces, and virtual reality. Credit: Harvard SEAS

By Leah Burrows
Children born prematurely often develop neuromotor and cognitive developmental disabilities. The best way to reduce the impacts of those disabilities is to catch them early through a series of cognitive and motor tests. But accurately measuring and recording the motor functions of small children is tricky. As any parent will tell you, toddlers tend to dislike wearing bulky devices on their hands and have a predilection for ingesting things they shouldn’t.

In spite of what most are writing, it was a year of much progress.

A number of other summaries of 2018 in robocars have called it a bad year, the year it all went south, even the year the public realized that robocars will never come.

interview by   -   December 27, 2018



In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Kristoffer Richardsson, Michael Zillich, and Paulo Alvito.

by   -   December 22, 2018


Happy holidays everyone! Here are some more robot videos to get you into the holiday spirit.

by   -   December 21, 2018

By Lindsay Brownell

Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take over a month per engine. Many components are located deep inside the engine and cannot be inspected without taking the machine apart, adding time and costs to maintenance. This problem is not only confined to jet engines, either; many complicated, expensive machines like construction equipment, generators, and scientific instruments require large investments of time and money to inspect and maintain.

Safe Robot Learning on Hardware
February 4, 2019