Term Paper: New Applications for Artificial Intelligence and Consumer

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New Applications for Artificial Intelligence and Consumer Robots

The futuristic animated television series from the 1960s, "The Jetsons," featured a dowdy but enormously useful robot named "Rosie" who was not only personable, but also performed all of the family's household chores and was an excellent cook as well (even though the Jetsons also had a food-a-rack-a-cycle that created meals instantly). Although consumer robots have not yet reached the "Rosie" phase, they are getting closer every day. In fact, Moore's Law continues to hold true and computer processing speeds have doubled every 18 months or so since the law was propounded by this co-founder of Intel. As a result, consumer robots have become increasingly more functional and useful. According to Deal and Hsiung (2007), there is a wide range of consumer robotic products and devices currently available. "For example," they advise, "there are robotic lawn mowers, such as the Lawnbot Evolution that will cut up to three-fourths of an acre, robotic vacuum cleaners (Roomba), action robots such as Robosapien and Roboraptor, and the familiar LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO NXT and VEX robot construction sets" (Deal & Hsiung, 2007, p. 11). Indeed, a growing assortment of consumer robots that clean gutters, mop floors, and provide verbal interactions with lonely elders have also hit the market, and the trends in a growing consumer robotics industry are clear. For instance, Honda's Asimo robot, although still largely in a developmental stage, is already performing reception services for Japanese companies and provides other useful consumer functions such as serving beverages and meals (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1. Honda's Asimo Robot Serving Meals to Japanese Consumers

Source: http://ai.stanford.edu/~lsentis/files/ASIMO-new-773001.jpg

Although robots differ in their size, complexity, and intellectual abilities, they all possess some common features. For instance, Deal and Hsing add that, "Some robotic devices have very complex instruction sets to provide very precise repetitive control of a robot, and some may even learn new processes and responses to external stimuli using artificial intelligence techniques, while others may be programmed to perform simple operations" (p. 12). Taken together, these current trends suggest that consumer robots will become an increasingly commonplace sight in businesses and households alike in the near future, but the further development of consumer robots remained constrained by certain technological and even ethical issues which are discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

As consumer robots continue to grow in sophistication and abilities, there will inevitably come a point at which they gain sentience. This theme has been the focus of a number of motion pictures (i.e., "The Terminator," "I Robot," etc.) but in many ways, the future is now when it comes to determining how humans should interact with robots and what rules should be in place in their programming to ensure robots do not go berserk and injure or even kill humans. According to McGee (2007), "A robot with sinister intentions, without ethics, or adhering dispassionately to a code of ethics where intuition and subtlety is required (remember RoboCop?) has been the fuel of science fiction for decades. Should we require robot makers to program in a code of ethics to domestic products?" (p. 30). Foreseeing this current era, Isaac Asimov formulated his famous, "Three Laws of Robotics" which state:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law (quoted in Meladze, 2006 at p. 232).

These laws, though, assume that human programmers all play by the same rules and are meticulous in their coding, but it is reasonable to suggest that mistakes will be made and glitches in code will occur that will result in potential hazards for the human owners of consumer robots in the future. There are also some ethical issues involved in how humans will interact with robots in the future as their interactivity becomes more seamless and their appearance more human-like. For example, should humans be allowed to abuse robots, or "date" robots or even marry them? These questions and others that emerge from the research will form the focus of this study, the purpose of which is discussed further below.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed study is three-fold: (a) to identify current and future trends in consumer robotics and how artificial intelligence will allow these devices to interact with humans in new and unexpected ways; (b) to identify new applications for consumer robots in the future; and (c) to identify relevant ethical issues that may not have been considered to date concerning human interactions with consumer robots in the future.

References

Deal, W.F. & Hsiung, S.C. (2007). Exploring telerobotics: A radio-controlled robot.

The Technology Teacher, 67(2), 11-12.

McGee, G. (2007, May). A robot code of ethics. The Scientist, 21(5), 30.

Meladze, V. (2006). America's apocalyptic rebirth fantasies in contemporary films. The Journal

of Psychohistory, 33(3), 232-233.

Human-Computer Interaction in a Ubiquitous Computing Environment

Introduction

Computer and handheld peripheral manufacturers continue to introduce wireless products that are becoming smaller and smaller but more powerful at the same time. These trends suggest that at some point in time, physical computers and peripherals will disappear altogether and something as yet unknown will replace them as the inexorable march towards ubiquitous computing continues. For example, according to Jacko and Sears, "We appear to be heading into the much heralded epoch of ubiquitous computing" (p. 13). A ubiquitous computing environment is "epochal" because it will free humans of the current time-consuming, laborious and error-prone methods of interacting with computers through the cumbersome QWERTY keyboard and will enable virtually anyone, anywhere, to access information and perform analytical functions that were previously the sole domain of those who were highly skilled in their use. It may be possible someday, for example, to simply think about what type of information is desired and have it appear as a holograph or projected on any surface. Some of the indicators that ubiquitous computing will become a reality in the foreseeable future include the introduction of wireless devices such as global positions systems, personal digital assistants, cellular telephones, Bluetooth devices, and so-called wearable computers that are all supported by wireless application protocols (Jacko & Sears, 2003). Although the enabling technology already largely exists to create such a ubiquitous computing environment, some significant constraints remain unresolved which form the focus of the study proposed herein and which are discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

In the 1990s, Marc Weiser coined the term "ubiquitous computing" to describe an environment in which computers were literally everywhere but in which they nowhere to be seen. Early efforts that were focused on a ubiquitous computing environment involved installing computers and sensors in office settings so that human users could interact with them in more seamless and transparent ways (Jacko & Sears, 2003). Indeed, it is not too farfetched to suggest that when these same methods are extended into the consumer realm, signs in airports will automatically recognize what type of information is desired and will display information in the language of the traveler, as just one example. In this regard, Jacko and Sears (2003) emphasize that, "There is a natural extension to the consumer world in which more and more of our products actually contain computer chips. Donald Norman has gone so far as to predict transparently supplemented hearing, sight, memory, and reasoning via computer(s) implanted under the skin" (p. 14). Because many consumers might be reluctant to have a computer chip embedded under their skin, it is also reasonable to suggest that alternative approaches to providing human-computer interaction in the future will be developed. In order for this level of seamless interaction to take place, though, the computer-everywhere-but-nowhere scenario must be able to determine the context in which the user is accessing information. As Jacko and Sears point out, "An important feature is context sensitivity. Specialists already recognize that one of the keys to successful, natural, human interaction is detecting and accommodating the context in which the user is operating. A very significant part of that context is to know or be able to infer the user's intent" (Jacko & Sears, 2003, p. 14). This level of interaction may appear to be on the level of mind reading or even magic, but there are already some computing systems that recognize what humans want and provide information in that context. For example, "The global positioning systems give us the location context. Clever system design can support some level of intent inferencing. Speech recognition has the potential to support more. Nevertheless, one of the challenges of the next several years will be to improve our methods and techniques for intent inferencing" (Jacko & Sears, 2003, p. 14). Although speech-recognition software has made major advances in recent years (the manufacturers of Dragon speech-recognition software, Nuance, for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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