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A.I. and Robotics Take Another Wobbly Step Forward 102

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the where-is-my-robotic-bartender dept.
CWmike writes to tell us that artificial intelligence and robotics have made another wobbly step forward with the most recent robot from Stanford. "Stair" is one of a new breed of robot that is trying to integrate learning, vision, navigation, manipulation, planning, reasoning, speech, and natural language processing. "It also marks a transition of AI from narrow, carefully defined domains to real-world situations in which systems learn to deal with complex data and adapt to uncertainty. AI has more or less followed the 'hype cycle' popularized by Gartner Inc.: Technologies perk along in the shadows for a few years, then burst on the scene in a blaze of hype. Then they fall into disrepute when they fail to deliver on extravagant promises, until they eventually rise to a level of solid accomplishment and acceptance."
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A.I. and Robotics Take Another Wobbly Step Forward

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  • "Here is your stapler," says Stair, handing it to the man. "Have a nice day."

  • People perception (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300)

    The generals population of AI is the Data, or Terminator. Some how superior to us humans who will not make mistakes. However real AI the computer makes a lot of Mistakes, and learns from them. But being that a standard computer has the brain power of a bug, it isn't surprising that AI meets the hype.

    • Re:People perception (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chabo (880571) on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:11PM (#26614751) Homepage Journal

      Even my AI professor in school pointed to Data as really the end-goal of AI research (as well as a character from Battlestar Galactica, though I don't watch that show). I think many people are aware that modern AI has roughly the intelligence of an animal. That's much improved on AI from when the character Data was made, where the intelligence was more like that of a single-cell organism.

      Of course, considerations must always be made for disaster... [xkcd.com]

      I'm always amazed how broad a field AI really is; algorithms started in AI theory for moving robots around a room can be applied nearly everywhere.

      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday January 26, 2009 @08:02PM (#26615357)

        It could even be argued that the ability to navigate a room is the same set of problem solving skills that informs all other intelligence.

        It's spacial understanding combined with analyzing the capabilities of the agent to complete the task. Include a door and you have extremely complex problem solving and learning abilities.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nigel Stepp (446)

        Then again, some single cell organisms are pretty smart [abc.net.au].

        Seriously though, I don't think AI has yet reached the point of being as smart as your typical animal (which means low-level mammal I'm assuming). Not without substantial loans of intelligence on the part of the AI operator/designer.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by sean4u (981418)

          You said something unpopular about AI. It's a good job there's no -1 sceptic modpoint, or I wouldn't even have seen your comment.

          As far as I can see, AI has reached the point of being as smart as a snail that's really, really good at chess.

          ...if I've offended any snail slashdot readers, I apologise profusely.

      • I think many people are aware that modern AI has roughly the intelligence of an animal.

        I think that modern AI is not even close to the intelligence of an animal. I remember in our cognitive robotics course where we were shown a video of a bird figuring out how to get its food from a little toy trap that some researchers set.

        It was amazing how the bird used a piece of wire to make a hook in order to pick out the basket from the trap. I don't think AI would figure out how to do that (yet).

        • by Trahloc (842734)
          True, but then the researchers almost died of shock when the bird did that. It's not so much that AI hasn't advanced a great degree as we didn't give animals the proper respect for how intelligent they truly are.
      • I think many people are aware that modern AI has roughly the intelligence of an animal.

        You must be talking about some pretty simple animals.

    • by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:11PM (#26614755) Homepage

      The generals population of AI is the Data, or Terminator. Some how superior to us humans who will not make mistakes.

      Clever use of first sentence to invalidate second :-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But being that a standard computer has the brain power of a bug, it isn't surprising that AI meets the hype.

        I was thinking it was a clever use of the first part of the last sentence to invalidate the last part of the last sentence.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      Data was an enigma to me.

      He would go into a holodeck to learn about emotions from computer software.

      Was I the only one confused by this? Why not... you know... just give him the same programming as all of the holodeck characters? It seemed emotional and social behavior was easy to teach to 20 billion unique characters on a holodeck program for earth but beyond the abilities of Data?

      • The characters on the holodeck did not have emotions. They had pre-programmed responses to specific situations. For example, the holodeck audience laughed at everything Data did when he was trying to learn how to be funny.
        • That's not true when Data goes into the Holodeck to learn humor his teacher tells him outright what is and is not funny.

          Being able to judge humor and react appropriately was beyond data, but not beyond his holographic tutor.

          • He also couldn't use contractions... so I think Noonian Soong probably hit the bong a few times while coding data and left out some obvious bits.

            It might also explain his curious occupation with fuzzy cats.
            ...
            ...
            ...
            LOL, I just looked up the "Ode to Spot" Geez, I still miss this show...

            Ode to Spot
            Felis Cattus, is your taxonomic nomenclature,
            an endothermic quadruped carnivorous by nature?
            Your visual, olfactory and auditory senses
            contribute to your hunting skills, and n
    • by linj (891019)
      Or, alternatively, these [wikipedia.org] things. [wikipedia.org]

      Actually, speaking of these things... why'd they name a robot Stair when it can't even climb stairs?! ... Unless the pivot wheel is just a distraction from the folks at Stanford. *scrutinizes image.* Perhaps to prevent us from thinking it's Skynet-brood, as noted by parent...
    • "But being that a standard computer has the brain power of a bug..."

      I didn't realize we were that close to replacing most humans with robots.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      We see a lot of AI/robots characters in SF. A too under-represented character is the post-human : trying to match AIs intelligence by addons and boosts to the 'wetware' of human intelligence.
      • by Trahloc (842734)
        You are *so* right. Cyborgs don't get enough screen time. I'd love it if someone made an independent film showing someone take the leap from natural born human to transhuman, it'd instantly be on my top 10 if it wasn't cheesy.
  • "Get him a cell-phone!"
  • Bearing in mind that this new robot is called STAIR, does that mean it is using gradient descent algorithms ?

  • It's Flexible Frank [wikipedia.org]!
  • Hype? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnthropomorphicRobot (1460839) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:52PM (#26614521) Homepage

    This article both points out the problems of over-hyped advances in robots, while also claiming this robot has transitioned away from narrowly defined domains?

    The voice recognition & language processing component alone would be years ahead of anything else if it worked well outside of a "narrow, carefully defined domain". It seems like they are yet again over-hyping new research.

    • Re:Hype? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sleeponthemic (1253494) on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:16PM (#26614789) Homepage
      Robotics is a lot like graphical photorealism/virtual reality. People have been predicting it for decades, but the actual nuance of such an achievement is much more complex than most are able to comprehend. As such, we're perpetually surrounded by the hype.
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>People have been predicting it for decades, but the actual nuance of such an achievement is much more complex than most are able to comprehend

        You haven't heard of Playstation Home? Second Life? Quake?

        I used to work for a company that produced goggles for VR work (used mainly in the military as personal HUDs) and we produced some video games using them. It was fun, but in the consumer market people seemed to prefer just using a mouse to turn instead of having to snap one's head around to aim at an en

        • >>People have been predicting it for decades, but the actual nuance of such an achievement is much more complex than most are able to comprehend

          You haven't heard of Playstation Home? Second Life? Quake?

          I used to work for a company that produced goggles for VR work (used mainly in the military as personal HUDs) and we produced some video games using them. It was fun, but in the consumer market people seemed to prefer just using a mouse to turn instead of having to snap one's head around to aim at an enemy sneaking up behind you in Quake. It's a mature technology (no hype needed, it works), but people just prefer the mouse, monitor, and keyboard approach to VR goggles and haptic gloves.

          You are a bit south of my point. Your standards are realistic and not at all related to the hype surrounding virtual reality. The sheer fact you mention second life, quake or playstation home as matching the hype betrays the fact you weren't listening when the hype men were talking (not a bad thing).

          When I talk about the hype, I mean all the people claiming that you would be experiencing, virtually, what we experience on a day to day basis. A photo-realistic experience close to that of regular life.

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            >>With a realistic viewpoint, I'm sure the technology is progressing fine. It isn't quite matching that of the perpetual hype machine surrounding it, though. No surprise there.

            Fair enough. I saw Lawnmower Man.

    • by jheiss (10829) *

      Indeed. Although the example listed in the article (successfully responding to "go fetch me a stapler") is impressive, I highly doubt that if I plunked the robot down in my office it could perform that task. Nor could it probably handle a request for an arbitrarily different object in their lab (go fetch me light bulb). They've integrated a lot of difficult problems and managed to get it to work in their environment, but unless they're well ahead of anyone else this is still within a narrowly defined pro

    • The voice recognition & language processing component alone would be years ahead of anything else if it worked well outside of a "narrow, carefully defined domain".

      Agreed. And even then it will still be short of the intelligence of a first grader. In the murky waters of human communications the words are just a tiny piece of the puzzle. Where's the posture gesture expression tone accent speed pauses and choice of words recognition that tells you what a person really means by asking you to fetch a stapler?

      Sometimes a stapler isn't just a stapler.

  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:00PM (#26614629)
    From the article: "Because these small [software] agents don't have a complete representation of the world, they are uncertain about their actions. So they learn to understand the probabilities of various things happening, they learn the preferences [of users] and costs of outcomes and, perhaps most important, they becoming self-aware."


    I sure as hell hope they left out the lip-reading module.
    • by ypctx (1324269)
      They have, but the only effect of that was - upon seeing two crew members talking in a sound proof area - an immediate suspicion of mission endagerment followed by ejection of said sound proof area to the outer space and blasting it to pieces with an ion cannon, as to lower the probability of its return to an acceptable value.
  • Then they fall into disrepute when they fail to deliver on extravagant promises, until they eventually rise to a level of solid accomplishment and acceptance.

    Sounds like a few humans I can think of (politicians?) Well, except for that "solid accomplishment and acceptance" part.

  • Other Robots (Score:3, Informative)

    by troll8901 (1397145) <troll8901@gmail.com> on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:17PM (#26614803) Journal

    Recent articles on robots.

  • Yeah, but.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by karlwilson (1124799) on Monday January 26, 2009 @07:21PM (#26614873)
    If you squeeze its chest, does it slap you? If not, they'll just have to take this one back to the drawing board. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l6buDfU9AY [youtube.com]
  • As an undergraduate Computer Engineer who intends to major in AI I would be really interested in knowing if anyone knew whether the companies mentioned in this article (Google, Walmart etc...) actually do hire people with a specialization in AI? And if so how do u get recognized?? Or is it all just copied and pasted from researchers who work in all the Universities they mentioned?
    I guess the root of my question is, by pursuing AI are you pushing yourself into becoming an academic for the rest of your life
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      I think AI is mainly used in spamming these days. Maybe William Gibson is right. It will be a crime to conspire to enhance an artificial intelligence.
    • by Xest (935314)

      It depends what you want to do with AI, it's a wide and varied subject.

      If you want to develop robots like in the article, then yeah you'll need to become an academic.

      If you're not too picky about what AI techniques you use, then you don't so much look for a job that says "We want someone who understands AI" as you do look for a job, where you know you'll be able to do things better with AI.

      This is the path I ended up going down, I simply looked for a software engineering job at a firm that was willing to nu

  • "Stair, please click the 'Print' link so I don't have to see only a third of the short article squeezed into 1/5 of the space on the page," says the man seated at a conference room table. The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, standing nearby, replies in a nasal monotone, "OK, but the print version still wastes most of your screen with white background."
  • Asimo (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I will like to know how is better than Asimo, or by the way, of any of the advanced Japanese robots

    • by linhares (1241614)

      I will like to know how is better than Asimo, or by the way, of any of the advanced Japanese robots

      You must be new here. It's from Stanford, who gave us google, nike, ...yahooo...and silicon graphics... Oh shit

  • FTFS: they eventually rise to a level of solid accomplishment and acceptance.

    And this happens when? On slashdot, I think this last part of the cycle is purely hypothetical.

  • Hyper Cycle (Score:3, Insightful)

    by computechnica (171054) <PCGURU@DEBIANCOM ... com minus distro> on Monday January 26, 2009 @10:48PM (#26616891) Homepage Journal
    We are still waiting for V.R. to reemerge from the Hype Cycle.
  • trying to integrate learning, vision, navigation, manipulation, planning, reasoning, speech, and natural language processing,

    IOW walk and chew gum at the same time. Heck, I know people who can't pass that test.

  • "Stair" is one of a new breed of robot that is trying to integrate learning, vision, navigation, manipulation, planning, reasoning, speech, and natural language processing.

    Because LVNMPRSLP doesn't make such a catchy algorithm.

  • I'm building a robot soldier. It will have a pistol in one hand, and a club in another, so it can club a bunch of people, and shoot the rest, because the pistol will be fed by 2000 rounds stored in its arm. It will weight 400lbs. Build 500,000 of these things, and we won't have to worry about hearts and minds. We'll just unleash fire breathing metal terror on our enemies, and they to us, and all that will be left is a bunch of robots running in circles until they run out humans and batteries. But hey,

  • Does anyone know Stair's postal address?
    Sarah Connor
  • same stuff elsewhere (Score:2, Informative)

    by sixtuslab (1130675)
    There's a BBC documentary "Where's my robot" [bbc.co.uk] out since 16 dec 2008 with STAIR and others in it.

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