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## Robots4Humanity in next Society, Robots and Us

February 23, 2021

Speakers in tonight’s Society, Robots and Us at 6pm PST Tuesday Feb 23 include Henry Evans, mute quadriplegic and founder of Robots4Humanity and Aaron Edsinger, founder of Hello Robot. We’ll also being talking about robots for people with disabilities with Disability Advocate Adriana Mallozi, founder of Puffin Innovations and Daniel Seita, who is a deaf roboticist. The event is free and open to the public.

As a result of a sudden stroke, Henry Evans turned from being a Silicon Valley tech builder into searching for technologies and robots that would improve his life, and the life of his family and caregivers, as the founder of Robots4Humanity. Since then Henry has shaved himself with the help of the PR2 robot, and spoken on the TED stage with Chad Jenkins in a Suitable Tech Beam. Now he’s working with Aaron Edsinger and the Stretch Robot which is a very affordable household robot and teleoperation platform.

We’ll also be hearing from Adriana Mallozi, Disability Advocate and founder of Puffin Innovations which is a woman-owned assistive technology startup with a diverse team focused on developing solutions for people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and independent lives. The team at Puffin Innovations is dedicated to leveling the playing field for people with disabilities using Smart Assistive Technology (SAT).  SAT incorporates internet of things connectivity, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to provide maximum access with the greatest of ease. By tailoring everything they do, from user interfaces to our portable, durable, and affordable products, Puffin Innovations will use its Smart Assistive Technology to provide much needed solutions the disabled community has been longing for.

This continues our monthly exploration of Inclusive Robotics from CITRIS People and Robots Lab at the Universities of California, in partnership with Silicon Valley Robotics. On January 19, we discussed diversity with guest speakers Dr Michelle Johnson from the GRASP Lab at UPenn, Dr Ariel Anders from Women in Robotics and first technical hire at Robust.ai, Alka Roy from The Responsible Innovation Project, and Kenechukwu C. Mbanesi and Kenya Andrews from Black in Robotics, with discussion moderated by Dr Ken Goldberg, artist, roboticist and Director of the CITRIS People and Robots Lab, and Andra Keay from Silicon Valley Robotics.

You can see the full playlist of all the Society, Robots and Us conversations on the Silicon Valley Robotics youtube channel.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE FIRST INCLUSIVE ROBOTICS DISCUSSION (from video directly above)

Andra Keay 0:05

Ken Goldberg 4:37
Thank you under so I want to say we’re really lucky to be partnering with you on this and so it’s a pleasure to work with you and citrus is a University of California, actually state level organization that connects for the campuses. They are said, Davis, Santa Cruz and Berkeley and the mission of CITRIS stands for the center is a center for Information Technology Research in the interest of society. So the mission of this series that Andhra is organizing is very much consistent with the with the mission of the center. And my my initiative within it is the is people and robots. So these are really come together very strongly. And this idea of inclusive robotics is something that we’re very excited about developing and expanding in the in the in the year to come and the years to come. So I really appreciate the the discussion we’re going to have tonight, I’m really looking forward to hearing your perspectives.

Andra Keay 5:35
Thanks so much again. And you’ve probably seen that we have a fantastic lineup of speakers tonight, we have Dr. Michelle Johnson, who is at the grasp lab in new pen, and actually is the director of the rehabilitation robotics lab at the grasp lab, and the Associate Professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. We have Dr. Ariel Anders, and she is the first technical hire at robust AI, and is also a board member for women in robotics. We have Alka Roy, who is the founder of the responsible innovation project, and is working on building delight, trust and inclusion into technology and AI. Looking forward to hearing more about that. Then we have getting my notes out of order here. Then we have Kenny Chiku Nova nisi from who is a roboticist. And my notes are totally out of order now. and is a member of blacking robotics, and he will be able to speak to us a little bit about, like in robotics, as well, Kenny Andrews, who’s a computer engineering master’s student at the University of Illinois, and on the undergraduate committee of black in robotics. And, of course, Ken Goldberg, who is the director of the people in robots lab at citrus, and the distinguished William S. Floyd Jr. Chair in engineering at UC Berkeley, and is not only a roboticist, but an artist and I love the cross disciplinary perspective that that brings to the discussion. And without more from me now I think we’ve given all of the strikers time to join the conversation, I would like to introduce Dr. Michelle Johnson.

Dr Michelle Johnson 7:46

Andra Keay 15:12
No, that was that was excellent. And I think they were very clear points. I’ve been penciling down some questions myself. If anybody else has questions specific, specifically for Michelle, or questions about the subjects that she’s raised, you can table them in the chat, and we will definitely get to them. I’m looking forward to hearing what other angles on the discussion of what is inclusive robotics? And how do we get it that we’re going to uncover tonight. So without further ado, I would like to introduce Dr. Arielle Anders, who is the first technical hire at robust AI and on the board of women in robotics.

Dr Ariel Anders 15:58

Andra Keay 21:58
Thank you. All right, that was great and beautiful quotes from my Maya Angelou as well. And I’m getting such a lot of rich material from the discussion that’s going on in the chat about what is a multicultural robot that Michelle raised? And you know, you’re very clear points, nothing about us without us. And, you know, I’m thinking we have a lot of issues about where we cite the responsibility along the production of robots. And I think everybody kind of wishes, that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to do this. And quite often we’re reaching the production of robots with great big problems somewhere or other along this production process. There is nothing is working together collaboratively to develop appropriate robotics. So I’m starting to get some thoughts myself around this process. And you know, already, so thank you both for inspiring us there. What I should do is introduce our next speaker, Alka Roy is the founder of the responsible innovation project. And you’re currently a visiting faculty at Berkeley, I believe, as well. Okay.

Alka Roy 23:29

Andra Keay 30:33
Thanks, Alka. And I could see some people are very positive about what you’re saying there. I have to agree that the good design framework is to not create something that is perpetuating stereotypes, because we do anthropomorphize and it triggers our unconscious biases and stereotypes, and I see some more conversations coming. But I think it’s time to introduce Kenechukwu Mbanesi from the Black In Robotics undergraduate committee. And you’re currently, he’s currently doing a PhD in robotics engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. And I’m looking forward to learning more about that over to you.

Kenechukwu C. Mbanesi 31:29
Alright, hello, sorry, I was just trying to get my sharing going on here. Just give me one second. Can you see my screen?

Andra Keay 31:47
Yes. Looks good.

Kenechukwu C. Mbanesi 31:49

Andra Keay 38:11

Kenya Andrews 39:41

Andra Keay 51:09
Thank you so much, Kenya, you raised great points. And it was wonderful to have the definitions there. And what I like most is that you took it back to saying starting with the algorithm. And this is something that is both critically important and also crucially problematic at the moment. Because right now, robotics has become a subset of AI. And that means that federal policies on AI, are incorporating robotics, it means that the agenda is being driven around the discussion around AI and AI ethics. And it is often being done in complete ignorance with robotics. And some of the problems there is that if the discussion is only about robotics, then it may only be about safety, rather than algorithmic transparency. But at the same time, if the discussion is primarily about the algorithm, then it’s going to be excluding the impacts of physical robot. And they just have a completely different and expanded way of inter intersecting with us in society. So, you know, I love that you started with the AI in that discussion. And let me just see if Ken would like to speak now. And

Ken Goldberg 52:31
Thank you. Good, thank you. I appreciate that. I am really inspired by by a lot of this discussion. And I also want to take a moment to acknowledge that the event tonight is sandwiched between two major events, at least in the United States. One is Martin Luther King Day, which we celebrated yesterday, and tomorrow, which is the inauguration. And it will be approximately 15 hours or so we will have a new president of the United States new ministration. Which I don’t know how others feel about that. But I for one, I’m very, very, very happy about it. The I think that it’s important, because is going to we are at an opportunity, a new chapter in in American history, which I think will affect a lot of events globally. I think as as you know, one thing that that struck me is that the that is Kenya, I’ve just mentioned that the COVID vaccines process is going to be very interesting reexamination of our sense of inclusivity. Because we are going to have to think very carefully and deeply about how we prioritize the the vaccine. It’s been very interesting to me that the that seniors and, and healthcare workers, prisoners, incarcerated individuals have been prioritized with good reason. But it’s very interesting, because, you know, they’re not often they’re often not considered in, in our priorities. And so it’s been a forcing us to reconsider. And I think as the more vaccines become available, we’re gonna have to do some really careful thinking about how this is rolled out is going to cause a reexamination. And I want to note that this pandemic has, has, has, has woken us up in so many ways. It was 100 years ago that the 1918 pandemic occurred. And I was reflecting on the idea that the word robot was coined in 1920, right after the end of the pandemic, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that it was such an interesting context where they had just gone through World War and this horrendous threat to humanity. And that’s when the playwright Karl che back in Czechoslovakia basically comes up with a story about robots rebelling against against the the totalitarian regime that was basically forcing them to work. And that that’s the word that’s where the word robot originated. So 100 years later, We think that thinking about robots in this context of our political, economic, social environment is so important. And so I think that the the points that were raised here from the beginning from Michel characterizing, you know, what are we? What is our definition? Because I think that’s so hard to actually wrap our heads around. I mean, we can talk about, you know, seniors and children age as a sort of inclusivity. Right, that’s one very big factor, then there’s a one we didn’t talk about tonight, but gender, and LGBTQ T, right, there’s all the gender issues that have come to the fore, actually this year. And race issues, I mean, Black Lives Matter. I think that the bipoc, the whole idea of thinking about in new ways that has created a lot of shifting of attention and priorities in a really positive way, I can tell you that black and robotics, and black and AI have had a big influence this year on our admissions process at Berkeley, we’re right now reviewing applicants, and we are getting a lot of attention. We’ve got more applicants than ever before, more black applicants than ever before. And two of them are here, actually. And I want to say it’s wonderful, because they’re there. What’s really important is that we’re, we’re learning and educating the faculty that what’s important is not just looking at the scores, how many papers they’re reading, but what is their trajectory been? So if a student has come from a, from adversity in a small village, and in Africa, and now is an undergraduate at, you know, doing Greenham? Well, in classes, that’s a huge trajectory. I mean, that means they’re there, you know, imagine what they had to overcome to get there. So really think about that, in regard to how you’re evaluating that student. They may not have a published paper, but they’re on a trajectory to do, nothing’s gonna stop. Right. So I think this is really fascinating. And it’s a really powerful and important time, that I also think in terms of other you know, races, we talked about, you know, you open tonight ondra with a with a story about Native Americans and Aboriginal people, I think it’s really important. We also consider Hispanic, Indian, though the full spectrum of races that are out there. And languages, by the way, a big disparity that excludes many people is their language they speak. There’s a, you know, there’s an emphasis on English in a lot of the publications. But that is very difficult that it’s not your native language. So you have a barrier to overcome and the way you read and write that is, we need to think about how to overcome that even our conversation tonight is in English. And then the translation, nowadays, some of these tools and AI, again, comes into play, are going to open up these doors, and I hope they will increase in quality so that we can have simultaneous translation. And for example, for for people with hearing disabilities, having ability to have automated translation, Closed captioning is wonderful thing we’ve been using in our classes, I have a student who’s on hearing disabled, and we use this for all of our meetings. So it’s been it’s opened a huge amount of doors for all kinds of disabilities with regard to cognitive, neuro cognitive diversity, or neuro diversity. And people have learning disabilities, we find out today with COVID-19, that these kinds of learning disabilities are much greater than we thought before, students have all kinds of challenges. And that is also important to acknowledge the and also, as Michelle noted this socio economic variations, right, we are oftentimes targeting this kind of particular people who can afford these kind of robots and tools and even have who have Wi Fi in their homes. Right, but many people do not. So how do we think about that? And also, I also think that intellectually, we also tend to target, you know, in the inclusivity, in terms of the people developing are oftentimes, you know, nerds like me, engineers, right? We’re all people who feel pretty good about doing science or math stem, but many people don’t, they just don’t have that, that they’re uncomfortable there. And they, but they feel excluded. So how do we engage with people who are the artists and the humanists, and the writers, the journalists, you know, who are so engaged across the board. So all these things, and workers are oftentimes the affected by the robots that we’re, we’re developing, so we need to be engaging with with workers, and really thinking carefully about how it’s going to affect those workers, especially minimum wage, who are, you know, and most vulnerable to these technologies. So, um, there’s so many things that this is sort of, you know, engaging for me. And I also have to say, I’m Kenny, I have not met you before, but I’m so excited to follow up with you because we have a common background in Nigeria. I was born there. And in the in the 60s, and we would those programs you mentioned I’m not aware of. But it was fascinating because we had we started something called the African robotics network with a professor in Ghana. And it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s been a little bit in with the first objective of it. This was in 2012, was to build an ultra affordable robot for education to design an ultra affordable. And the challenge was to design something under $10. So we thought nobody could ever do that it’s programmable robot for under$10. Anyway, it turned out that someone did. And it was a it was a it was a hobbyist living in Thailand, basically came up with what he calls a lolly bot. And if you look it up on the internet, it’s l o, l, l, y BOT, a lolly bot, and it costs \$8.64. So you can build it from an old Sony game controller. Anyway, what I want to say is, I love what you’re saying, because I completely agree with this, there is a big opportunity, I am very excited about Africa and its potential, I think that is a major continent, and that we are that there’s going to accelerate into the future. And one of the things that African students, I found a really incredible ability is to know how to think outside the box in a way that they think differently because of their experience. So they’re very, very attuned to how to make something affordable and sustainable, how to make something that works, even when the electricity goes out, which nobody in the West usually thinks about. But those kind of things are really important. And so and there is engaged and interested in robots as any kid anywhere. So that’s why I want to be able to bring them to robots and the programs that you’re talking about, like the pan African robotics competition, I absolutely love it. So I want to connect with you because I would really like to follow up. But that is one of the things I think we can do. As the group of us tonight, which is to break this we’re forming a community I mean, what I feel is that there’s a there’s a real sense of, of some ground ground grassroots thing happening here. And I’m so excited, I want to thank you Andra for putting that putting this group together. Because there’s a spark here that I want to support. And I mean, I really want to see that grow over the next few years. And I think we are at a moment in time historical moment when this is an opportunity for us to step forward and really take take this opportunity and do something with it carried forward in a really meaningful and sustainable way. Thank you.

Andra Keay 1:02:03
Thank you so much, Ken, that was a very wonderful note to finish on. And sadly, for tonight, we are out of time. But the problem space is enormous. But it’s fitting to realize that the opportunity space is even larger. And I personally had thought a lot. What would a robot look like if it was designed by women for women, and I could imagine things being different. But imagine now what it would look like if your language models were for languages other than English. Or if you had to rise to the challenge of developing language models for multiple languages, as is the case in Africa. And I love the examples that can gave us there as well about really thinking outside of the box. If it’s been proven, fairly scientifically, that diversity drives innovation. And it might not be as comfortable. But it is certainly far more productive. If you’re looking to make change, as well as creating something that’s inclusive. So we shall have to continue this discussion and extend this discussion into our workplaces and to the rest of the people around us because we Yes, we need to get everybody in the room. And I’m looking forward to taking that journey with you all and thank you so much tonight. That’s wonderful speech. Okay, I’m going to stop the recording and say goodnight to everyone.

Dr Michelle Johnson 1:03:48
Thank you

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Silicon Valley Robotics
guest author
Silicon Valley Robotics the industry association supporting innovation and commercialization of robotics technologies.

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