Hizook on video ethics in robotics research

08 July 2012

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Last Monday (July 2nd), Hizook posted a thoughtful piece, Being Honest in Robot Videos: Motion Capture, Speedup Rates, and Teleoperation, which covers even more ground than its title suggests. The article doesn’t take issue with unrealistic portrayals of robots in movies, nor with robots built as art or robot performances. Rather it calls into question what might be termed misrepresentation in videos depicting research robots, due to missing or inadequate notice of certain conditions, resulting in the creation of a false impression regarding the current state of the art and unrealistic expectations for the near future in the minds of the general public, undermining support for needed research on the premise that it’s already been done. The article touches on the use of external localization and motion planning systems (as opposed to accomplishing the same feats entirely with on-board sensors and processors), the distinction between teleoperation, scripting, and autonomous operation, time compression (making the robot appear to be moving faster than it really is), and tethering (for physical support, for power, and/or for low-latency, high-bandwidth communications), and suggests some best practices for providing notice of each. The comments which follow the article are also worth reading.

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John Payne

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