AI News, IROS 2013: Robots That Pay Attention To You

IROS 2013: Robots That Pay Attention To You

Research presented at IROS early this month shows how we may be getting to the point where teams of robots can pay attention to what we’re saying, where we’re looking, and what we’re doing, leading to a much more natural way to control them.

It’s an intuitive thing for humans, because we convey attention through our gaze, and researchers from Simon Fraser University(which, incidentally, has an awesome bagpipe band) are teaching robots to pay attention to what we pay attention to.

The AR Drones are watching the human with their cameras, and cooperatively using face detection to decide which one of them the human is looking at while listening for specific audio commands.

It works if you want to select multiple robots (one at a time), or single robots, whether or not they’re already in the group.

To that end, future work will allow robots to be grouped into named teams, so that it’ll be possible to easily direct specific robots to join or abandon different groups.


Robots.txt is a text file webmasters create to instruct web robots (typically search engine robots) how to crawl pages on their website.

The robots.txt file is part of the the robots exclusion protocol (REP), a group of web standards that regulate how robots crawl the web, access and index content, and serve that content up to users.

The REP also includes directives like meta robots, as well as page-, subdirectory-, or site-wide instructions for how search engines should treat links (such as “follow” or “nofollow”).

though one robots file can contain multiple lines of user agents and directives (i.e., disallows, allows, crawl-delays, etc.).

In a robots.txt file with multiple user-agent directives, each disallow or allow rule only applies to the useragent(s) specified in that particular line break-separated set.

Here are a few examples of robots.txt in action for a site: Using this syntax in a robots.txt file would tell all web crawlers not to crawl any pages on, including the homepage.

Because the robots.txt file contains information about how the search engine should crawl, the information found there will instruct further crawler action on this particular site.

If the robots.txt file does not contain any directives that disallow a user-agent’s activity (or if the site doesn’t have a robots.txt file), it will proceed to crawl other information on the site.

They include: When it comes to the actual URLs to block or allow, robots.txt files can get fairly complex as they allow the use of pattern-matching to cover a range of possible URL options.

If a user agent visits and does not find a robots file there, it will assume the site does not have one and proceed with crawling everything on the page (and maybe even on the entire site).

Robots.txt dictates site or directory-wide crawl behavior, whereas meta and x-robots can dictate indexation behavior at the individual page (or page element) level.

Interactive robot trains kids with autism

VANDERBILT (US) — A humanoid robot shows promise for teaching a basic social skill called joint attention to children with autism spectrum disorder.

for an elaborate system of cameras, sensors, and computers designed specifically to help children like Aiden learn how to coordinate their attention with other people and objects in their environment.

Mechanical engineers and autism experts have developed the system and used it to demonstrate that robotic systems may be powerful tools for enhancing the basic social learning skills of children with ASD.

Writing in the March issue of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, the researchers report that children with ASD paid more attention to the robot and followed its instructions almost as well as they did those of a human therapist in standard exercises used to develop joint attention skill.

The trend has major implications for the nation’s healthcare budget because estimates of the lifetime cost of treating ASD patients ranges from four to six times greater than for patients without autism.

He did so by outfitting computer/robot users with biosensors and analyzing variations in various readings like blood pressure and skin response to evaluate their emotional state.

At the time, several experiments had been conducted that suggested young children in general, and young children with ASD in particular, found robots especially appealing.

“Research has shown that early intervention, individualized to the learner’s needs, is currently the most effective approach for helping children with autism develop the foundational social communication skills they need to become productive adults,”

To aid in this effort, children in the study wore a baseball cap decorated with a strip of LED lights that allowed the computer to infer where they are looking.

If the child doesn’t respond, then the therapist provides increasing support by combining a verbal prompt with physical gestures such as turning her head or pointing.

The setup allowed the researchers to test the relative effectiveness of the robot-based system and human therapists in joint attention training with a dozen 2- to 5-year-old children, six with ASD and a control group of six typically developing children.

Encouraged by the success of this current study, Sarkar and Warren have started developing robot-mediated autism intervention systems that will address other deficits of children with autism such as imitation learning, role playing, and sharing.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): robots that automate routine and complex work

(For more about the topic, see Why Bots Should Matter To Customer Experience Professionals.) The simple answer is, yes, you should pay attention to robotic process automation (RPA) because it is a simple, affordable and viable way to streamline and simplify routine (or “mindless”) work.

But it turns out that RPA is being used by early adopters to get additional ROI and value from their internal and customer-centric processes in a short period of time and with a small team, so it’s worth considering.

Here are some examples of the human activities that RPA software can automate through scripting: By adding more robotic automation into an already streamlined and automated business process, companies can tackle activities such as: At first blush, one could argue that companies should ditch the idea of robots and instead fix these data integration lapses, and finish automating its poorly or incompletely automated processes.

For example, many companies in the financial services and insurance markets now combine RPA, BPM software, and predictive analytics to identify the next best actions for call center reps to discuss with customers —

It’s not a pancea and it doesn’t currently use AI (although that is coming), but RPA is still worth considering, either as a standalone product for improving brittle or hard to use applications, and/or as a key technology to combine with BPM software.

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