I think this is an interesting use of virtual reality, especially in an era when robot artificial intelligence is getting smarter and more intuitive and we are starting to transition to a world when humans and robots will work side by side. This type of interaction historically has been unthinkable, but with innovations like this it can one day become a reality in not just the factory setting, but in restaurants, healthcare facilities and homes. It's in its early stages and you do have instances in which robots and humans work closely, but simulating this type of interaction like Johns Hopkins is doing and bringing that into the real world will accelerate this type of interaction I think.
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
These three laws of robotics determine the idea of safe interaction. The closer the human and the robot get and the more intricate the relationship becomes, the more the risk of a human being injured rises. Nowadays in advanced societies, manufacturers employing robots solve this issue by not letting humans and robot share the workspace at any time. This is achieved by the extensive use of safe zones and cages. Thus the presence of humans is completely forbidden in the robot workspace while it is working.
So i say that this virtual reality is certainly interesting and seems wise.
Thanks for your comment, far911. The precautions historically taken to separate robots and humans have definitely been necessary and I think you're right that this is a good step in breaking down those barriers. I think robots like Baxter show that someday humans and robots will work side by side in a factory setting, so using virtual reality first to smooth this transition and make it absolutely safe is definitely a good idea.
I agree. I find the concept of training the robot in the virtual world very interesting. I can see how this method of training will minimize the amount of errors in the industrial environment. Although the approach Rethink Robotics has taken to teach the robot using planned motion, this VR technique seems easy to program a robot as well. Good article and video.
Thanks, mrdon. I agree this is an interesting approach, too, though as you point out, it is different from Rethink's. But I think it will take a few approaches to make it safe for humans and robots to work together and anything that can help facilitate this in a safe and meaningful way is heading in a good direction.
Thanks, mrdon. I have been reporting on research and development projects for quite some time now and I have learned that many times technologies, as promising as they seem, don't even make it out of the lab. So as much as we'd like technology to progress faster, sometimes it just doesn't!
I've worked for corporate companies where I developed a production intent prototype and to the dislike of decisions made by Executive Management, the product never reached manufacturing. It's unfortunate that a lot of good prototype concepts don't see the light of day in engineering labs because of cost, lack of vision, and not seeing the big picture by Corporate Executives. I guess that's why there is surge in startup tech companies to bring these new products to the marketplace.
Thanks for your comment, Machinesforu. I also think it's quite interesting how quickly technology is moving ahead in this field, and the prevalence of human-robot interaction is growing. I think it won't be long before humans and robots working side by side is a very common thing indeed.
Elizabeth, the VR environment is perfect for the first pass of training a robot. Is there an additional iteration after the first training where the paths are optimised?
In the video, one can see subtle yet seemingly wasted motion as the robot's arm moves from one point to another. This is a credit to the VR training environment, faithfully reproducing every single minute movement the human makes. Would a second pass eliminate human jitters?
@ Elizabeth M, that seems to be a gigantic task for now at least. While this can be termed as a big step forward but we are still dealing with it in virtual reality. We are still waiting for that big leap which will take us to an environment safer for humans to work with robots. In that respect we don't seem to have advanced considerably.
That is a great idea, Cabe. It sounds like it really could be applicable. I know there are robots that are being remotely controlled to go into hazardous places that are unsafe for humans, but I don't think they are quite being done in this way.
@ far911, these laws of robotics are also presented in a Hollywood movie by the same name of the novel. These laws are easy to state but difficult to bring to reality. 2nd and 3rd laws are relative in nature and that's where things become tricky. It comes down to perception then whether an action, or inaction, is tantamount to harm to humans or not.
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