The Sorcereres and Their Apprentices, by Frank Moss

6: Living and Learning Together

... in which Lab researchers teach robots a thing or two – or a thousand – about people.

If we can make a computer that can beat a human at Jeopardy!, then isn’t the long-awaited age of truly humanoid robots just around the corner?

Yes and no. Watson is very smart, but not very sociable. Thanks to a decades-long makeover by Media Lab researchers, robots may soon be fixtures in your daily life:  in schools, your local hospital or nursing home, even your home.

And not just any robots, but personal robots that are smart enough to learn about humans, from humans,  and express emotions so they can truly help “their” humans.

  • Come inside the Personal Robots workshop, a kind of preschool for teaching robots human-like skills—including common sense and reasoning.
  • Meet Nexi, one of the first mobile-dexterous-social robots in the world – and trace the long road to get to her.
  • Read what the film A.I. and special-effects wizard Stan Winston contributed to the Personal Robots project.
  • Hear how your smart phone will become a mini-robot – and a super-smart personal assistant.

  • Imagine the possibilities: From helping the elderly live independently longer to comforting a sick child in the hospital to helping you stick to your diet.
Professor Cynthia Breazeal on the rise of personal robots Watch (MIT Media Lab LabCAST)
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The very socialable Nexi introduces herself Watch (Credit: Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams)
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A Student researcher in Professor Cynthia Breazeal’s Personal Robots group makes adjustments to Leonardo, developed to explore radical new ways in which robots can interact with humans, and learn from them, in the course of everyday life.  (Photo: Media Lab Archives) Nexi, one of the world's first mobile-dexterous-social robots, learns how to act human, from a real boy.  Nexi was developed at the MIT Media Lab.  (Photo:  Andy Ryan Photography) Professor Cynthia Breazeal, head of the MIT Media Lab's Personal Robots group, with prototypes of “Huggable”, a sociable robot. Huggable can be used to comfort sick children in hospitals and in other stressful situations. (Photo: Sam Ogden) Maddox and Nexi, two of the first mobile-dexterous-social (human-acting) robots, await their tune-ups in the Personal Robots workshop at the MIT Media Lab.  Capable of learning from humans and responding to them, these lifelike robots can live side-by-side with people as helpmates. (Photo: Andy Ryan)

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