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Robots to be controlled by human minds

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London:  A robot that can be controlled with your thoughts and brain signals has been developed, says a new research.

The robot is developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Switzerland. The robot can be controlled remotely through brain signals and can perform various tasks.

The team of researchers, headed by professor Jose Del R. Millain, particularly had disabled people in mind while working on the concept to restore a sense of independence to the disabled.

Nine disabled people and ten healthy people in Italy, Germany and Switzerland took part in the task of piloting a robot with their thoughts.

For several weeks, each of the subjects put on an electrode-studded hat that are capable of analysing their brain signals. Then, they instructed the robot to move, transmitting their instructions in real time via internet from their home country.

By virtue of its video camera, screen and wheels, the robot, located in an EPFL laboratory in Switzerland, was able to film as it moved while displaying the face of the remote pilot via Skype. The person at the control, as if moving in place of the robot, was able to interact with whoever the robot crossed paths with.

“Each of the nine subjects with disabilities managed to remotely control the robot with ease after less than 10 days of training,” said Millain.

The brain-machine interface developed by the researchers goes even further.

The robot is able to avoid obstacles by itself, even when it is not told to. To avoid getting overly tired, the pilot can also take a break from giving indications.

If it doesn’t receive more indications, the robot will continue on the indicated path until it receives the order to stop.

The tests revealed no difference in piloting ability between healthy and disabled subjects.

In the second part of the tests, the disabled people with residual mobility were asked to pilot the robot with the movements they were still capable of doing, for example by simply pressing the side of their head on buttons placed nearby.

They piloted the robot just as if they were uniquely using their thoughts.

“Will robots soon become a fact of daily life for people suffering from a disability? Too soon to say,” Milan said.

“For this to happen, insurance companies will have to help finance these technologies,” he added.

The findings were published in a special edition of Proceedings of the IEEE.

(IANS)

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Why Robots That Are Made To Look Like Human Make Them Feel Uneasy

People who design machines to work with humans do keep the uncanny valley in mind as they think about the look of a robot.

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Why Robots That Look Too Human Make Some People Uneasy Pixabay

An increasing number of robots are being created and designed to work side by side with humans, in a human environment. That means robots have to be structured like a person, because some of them have to walk and sit like a person. Some robots are even being designed to look human.

But seeing an android, a robot that looks human, can make some people uneasy. That growing unsettling feeling or phenomenon as robots begin to look more like human beings is called the “uncanny valley.”

Even researchers who work on robots are not immune to it.

“I know how they work. I know they’re just machines, but something about something that looks like a person but doesn’t quite move like a person is disturbing,” said Jonathan Gratch, director for virtual human research at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies.

Gratch, who is a research professor of computer science and psychology, studies human-computer interaction.

He said there are many thoughts behind why the uncanny valley exists. One explanation is that it’s biological. People are hardwired to recognize when something seems wrong.

“In my research, I study emotion and how we use emotional cues to read each other’s minds, and I think a lot of the issue for me is if you try to make something very realistic, then you start trying to read all this information into what it’s portraying, and it is not the right information. So, it just communicates something is off. Something is wrong with this interaction,” Gratch said.

Another theory is that a robot that looks too human threatens what it means to be human.

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A robot head is covered by Hanson Robotics’ skin, in Hong Kong. VOA

“Initially, humans were seen as the only intelligent entity. And now, we know more and more that animals can do many of the things that we do, build tools. We know machines are starting to become intelligent. We hold on to the fact that we’re emotional, but now these machines are starting to be emotional as well, which is perhaps a threat. So, where does that lead people?” Gratch explained.

A person’s religious beliefs and culture may also play into how an android is perceived, he suggested.

“In the Western tradition, coming from Christianity, humans are unique, perhaps uniquely possessing a soul. Whereas in Japanese Shinto culture, souls live everywhere, in rocks and machines,” Gratch said.

John Rebula is a postdoctoral fellow at USC and is working on making a humanoid robot walk like a person by being more coordinated and balanced. Applications include the ability to walk up a flight of stairs and sit in a chair made for a person. He said the robot’s face is not necessary and is clearly cosmetic.

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The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. (VOA)

“We really do think of these as research machines that we’re ripping apart and putting back together, ripping apart and putting back together. And so, it’s very easy for us to leave off the cosmetic bits,” Rebula said.

His robot does have cartoon-like eyes, ears and a nose. It could be considered cute. However, if it looked more human, Rebula said he would not necessarily want to be in the lab with it all the time.

“We have lots of late nights in labs. You start yelling at the robot a little bit as it is — ‘Oh, why aren’t you working?’ I don’t necessarily, myself, need that extra layer of weird,” Rebula said.

Also Read: Video- India Scraps Law Criminalizing Homosexuality

People who design machines to work with humans do keep the uncanny valley in mind as they think about the look of a robot, and how widely it will be accepted by humans. (VOA)