Researchers Teach Robots Deception by Mimicking Squirrels
Georgia Tech researchers Ronald Arkin and Alan Wagner pose with robots that have been trained to deceive each other by studying the behavior of squirrels trying to protect their food stash. The work funded by the Office of Naval Research could eventually be used by the US military. (Source: Georgia Tech)
In my coverage of robots, it always interests me how researchers try to mimic the natural world to create robots not just for movements, but also for artificial intelligence. Squirrels are a clever choice for this type of deceptive behavior.
True! It's kind of like art imitates life imitates art...so here, robots imitate nature imitate robots...? Actually, I suppose since it's humans teaching robots how to think, perhaps we project our robotic tendencies onto the machines themselves...
Thanks for this fun article, Elizabeth! Biomimetics has long been an intriguing area of research. Quorum Sensing in bacteria is one of the latest discoveries that may well revolutionize how we deal with infectious disease. The folks at Georgia Tech are doing great work. A major difficulty arises when the robots playing hide and seek are not limited by the relatively few senses used by a squirrel. Add multispectral vision, penetrating radar, and residual trace chemical detection and it will be very difficult to hide from the seeker. And then you add a swarm of tiny seekers that just flood the area and check out every hiding place in parallel, and the game is no longer fun. =]
Interesting article, Liz. It's amazing to see the strategies that are being used to teach machines to learn and think. A couple of years ago, we ran a story about robots using humor to make themselves more acceptable to humans. To do that, the robots had to understand humor and have a vague understanding of what's "appropriate," which, of course, is a big part of humor. I can't imagine what robots will be capable of in 50 years.
Thanks, Charles. Humor in robots! Now that would be something. Sometimes you can't even find that in human beings. :) Joking aside, I am with you. I hope I am still around in about 50 years to see how robots have evolved. But I bet it won't even take that long before they are sophisticated beyond most people's imaginations.
Why chase squirrels when you can simply pick up a book on WWII military intelligence? For example, before D-Day, the RAF was tasked with knocking out the German radars on the landing sites. So as not to give away the sites, the RAF targeted 3 other sites for every sortie on the designated beaches. These robots are basically carrying out a similar tactic. What the robots can't do is change tactics once they know that the other side is "on" to them - their behaviour, although irrational, is predictable.
Researchers said the hiding robot "was successful at deceiving the other robot in 75 percent of tests" but can they deceive a second time? Or do we end up with dueling algorithms where the second robot is learning from its mistake .. and they battle to a standoff?
It's amazing how much effort in the area of artificial intelligence is trying to create what the world already does. The difficulty with this is the fact that we occasionally do something that is not predictable and how can an algorythm ever predict something that just comes out of no where.