AI News, Interview: iRobot CEO Colin Angle on Data Privacy and Robots in the Home

Interview: iRobot CEO Colin Angle on Data Privacy and Robots in the Home

Spectrum:What else do you think a robot like a Roomba could ultimately understand about your home?

The opportunity to have the robot carry sensors with it around the home would allow the expansion from a point reading to a 2D or 3D map of those readings.

As a result, the customer has a lot more control over [for example] how loud the stereo system is at a specific point, or what the temperature is at a specific point.

That’s something where a robot makes a lot more sense, and it’s interesting, if I want to have privacy in our home and yet still have a camera I can use, it’s actually a great idea to put one on a robot, because when the robot isn’t in the room with you, it can’t see you.

OK, House. Get Smart: Make the Most of Your AI Home Minions

Though we have yet to attain our ideal vision of the smart home—robots scurrying to fetch our slippers, breakfast, and a perfect pour-over—we now have the tools for establishing verbal dominion over our connected devices.

When it’s sleepy time, just say, “Alexa, set the bedroom to 66 degrees.” Don’t stop at a thermostat—ceiling fans from Haiku can be sped up or slowed with your voice, and Coway’s Airmega air purifier can obey Alexa.

Turn the key Given that smart home devices don’t have the greatest track record on secu­rity, it’s probably a good thing that Alexa will only let you lock a smart lock with your voice.

Using recipes you build on the web, you can tie a smart lock to other devices: Turn on the porch light and play soothing Kendrick Lamar when Mom gets home from work, for example.

Goodbye privacy, hello 'Alexa': Amazon Echo, the home robot who hears it all

The experiment with having a robot in my home was going well – useful exchanges, mutual learning, some bonding – right up until the robot thought I told it to “fuck off”.

Not my proudest moment, but I can still listen to it – my pathetic wheedling – because the robot recorded, saved and uploaded it to the cloud.

Unlike rivals such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now, it is a physical presence: a 20cm-tall black cylinder, about the size of two Coke cans, which contains Wi-Fi, two speakers, seven microphones and connects to the cloud.

It can stream music or radio, supply sports scores and traffic conditions, buy stuff online and answer questions, the tone veering from business-like to playful.

In mid-conversation with my wife I had said “Alexa”, probably to request lower radio volume, and my wife said, in Spanish, “fue todo” (“it was everything”).

Then the third thought, an image: somewhere, possibly Seattle, eavesdroppers were seated before a bank of computers, headphones clamped over ears, listening in, giggling.

My tangle with Alexa was a harmless misunderstanding, and the world’s biggest retailer (net annual sales $89bn) had drone fleets and Christmas rush preparations, among other things, to focus on.

Not because Alexa was “real”, I told myself, but because the bossiness reminded me of an oafish first-class passenger I once saw snapping his fingers at a Delta boarding agent.

She’s from Seattle.” It was not that Alexa seemed human, exactly, or evoked the operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the film Her, but that it – she – seemed to merit respect.

“Hmm, I’m afraid I can’t answer that.” With dozens of daily interactions recorded in the app’s history it grows to quite an archive, giving the dates and times I asked Alexa, for instance, to play John Lennon, or add garlic to the grocery list, or check on the weather in Baja California, where I was planning a vacation.

She’s like a genie in a sci-fi-looking bottle – one not quite at the peak of her powers, and with a tiny bit of an attitude.” In an interview Ronald Arkin, a robot ethicist and director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was more phlegmatic.

Technology advances bring benefits and drawbacks – you can’t stop the tide but can choose whether to stay out, paddle or plunge in, he said.

And the boundary between your home and the outside world is penetrated.” Ullman thinks people are mad to use email supplied by big corporations – “on the internet there is no place to hide and everything can be hacked” – and even madder to embrace something like Alexa.

Such devices exist to supply data to corporate masters: “It’s going to give you services, and whatever services you get will become data.

“With every advance you have to look over your shoulder and know what you’re giving up – look over your shoulder and look at what falls away.” Ullman’s warning sounds prescient.

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