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Robots Learn To Follow

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the no-sinking-ships-available dept.

Robotics 61

Roland Piquepaille writes "Three years after the development of robots that act like rats, UC Davis engineers have designed a control system for robots allowing them to pick up on cues that the leader is about to turn, predict where it is going and follow it. This system mimics the human ability to capture signals — consciously or not — from drivers on the road or people walking in the streets to predict what they're about to do. As the team leader said, 'Robots that are better at following could be easier for people to work with.' With this system, a hospital robot could follow doctors during their rounds."

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Robots learn to follow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24834817)

That sure sounds like Roland to me.

Re:Robots learn to follow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835025)

Roland Piquepaille, the Pied Piper of Slashdot ( editors )! :P~

I'll believe it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24834819)

...when pigs follow!

Re:I'll believe it... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835349)

What the world needs today is a strong leader, not a follower. Wake me up when the Messiah arrives.

Re:I'll believe it... (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#24839967)

Wake me up when the Messiah arrives.

Aren't you a couple of millennia late?

I've heard of oversleeping, but...

Re:I'll believe it... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#24841873)

1) Aren't Christians waiting for the Messiah to return? Serious question, I thought that they are.
2) I'm not Christian!

Re:I'll believe it... (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 5 years ago | (#24856187)

Not sure, but I am waiting for the rapture to take all the fricken christians away!

A super-rapture that took _all_ religious people would be even better.

Sign me up! (4, Funny)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24834863)

i wanna be the first kid on the block with Stalkerbot 5000!

Re:Sign me up! (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24836093)

Yeah. And for version 2, it repeats everything you say.

Re:Sign me up! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24838535)

Yeah. And for version 2, it repeats everything you say.

Re:Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24844491)

Version 2 will introduce a glitch in the software such that every now and again it randomly screeches "I'm telling!"

Re:Sign me up! (1)

Wanon (808109) | more than 5 years ago | (#24841093)

I know how to stop stalkerbot 5000!

Where can I get a doormat that says:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Robots like Roland (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24834887)

and his/its cut and paste articles, ripping off original writers for profit !
screw piracy and burnt CD's, just rip off other websites and schools/unis for advertising hits

shame on Slashdot for even linking his shite up

Re:Robots like Roland (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835741)

Strange. I see no ads on his site... (I opened it for the first time, to check if it really was that ad-laden.)

Re:Robots like Roland (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835769)

OMG! I LOVE you, Firefox! :D
I had AdBlock Plus enabled. And I will leave it that way, never knowing how much ads are there. Sorry Roland. No cookie for you.

H.E.L.P.eR. (4, Interesting)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#24834893)

As said the team leader, 'robots that are better at following could be easier for people to work with.' With this system, an hospital robot could follow doctors during their rounds."

Cool. Sounds like we're not far from the development of a real life H.E.L.P.eR. [wikipedia.org]

H.E.L.P.eR. has a wide range of devices in him and knowledge. He can perform surgery (as he once did to retrieve a kidney each from the boys), can fly the X-1, and holds a number of various gadgets in his body -- enough that Dr. Venture could even use him as a makeshift kidney dialysis machine.

Re:H.E.L.P.eR. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835249)

Cool. Sounds like we're not far from the development of a real life H.E.L.P.eR.

We're probably closer to having autonomous armed drones (flying and/or driving) that better anticipate an enemy's evasive maneuvers.

Sad, but true.

Overlords (5, Funny)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#24834899)

I for one welcome ou....hey stop following me!

Re:Overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835193)

I for one welcome ou....hey stop following me!

Re:Overlords (3, Interesting)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835305)

Read up on the DARPA Urban challenge winners, especially the stanford and carnegie-mellon vehicles. Not only could they adjust themselves according to other vehicle behavior (i.e following the directions and speed of multiple objects on the road) they even learned to negotiate intersections. They sure as hell could follow you around ;)

Re:Overlords (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24836397)

negotiating intersections is a completely different problem. all it takes to negotiate an intersection is to know the rules of traffic priority/right of way (or abide by other traffic control devices like traffic signals).

when there's a pre-established protocol for prioritizing traffic, there's little need for complex decision-making on the part of the individual. that's the way our road systems are designed so as to minimize accidents. it may take a new driver a little while to learn these rules, but they would be very easy for a robot/computer to pick up.

the problem arises when you have to negotiate traffic independently without a pre-established protocol. pedestrians don't follow traffic laws or pre-agreed-upon rules of priority. so you have to detect more subtle signals from each individual to predict their behavior.

it's more like negotiating a lane-change. even though you still have to obey traffic laws, there's no strict protocol that dictates whether someone has to allow you to change lanes or not. so even after you put on your signal you have to watch nearby vehicles carefully to make sure your speed is in sync and that you won't have a collision.

I, for one... (4, Funny)

Lt.Hawkins (17467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24834927)

I, for one, welcome our new robot followers...

Re:I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24839761)

I, for one, wlcome our new robot overlord and is followers...

Oh no! (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24834929)

With this system, an hospital robot could follow doctors during their rounds.

      As if the hordes of medical students weren't enough! Now robots are going to get in the way too?

No, 'Rats act like robots (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24834981)

How else to explain Obama.

The vapid "Candidate of Changed" just picked the consummate Washington insider for his running mate.

Re:No, 'Rats act like robots (1)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835021)


Re:No, 'Rats act like robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835203)

Dream on. We all know it's true. Even Jon Stewart:

Barack Obama: He completes us! [thedailyshow.com]

That's downright hilarious. I really love the juxtaposition of images of the all the animals bowing down to the Lyin' King with the slobbering and drooling over The Messiah at Invesco field last week. The image of Barack Obama superimposed on top of the baby Simba in Disney's "The Lion King" is dead-on. Even the big baby-lion floppy ears match up perfectly with Obama's jug handles.


Best single line: "Barack Obama: ready enough-ish to lead!"

Even Bill Maher says about the news coverage Obama gets [newsbusters.org] :

I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him too much. I don't think he thinks that he's all that, but the media does. I mean, the coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him.

Screw hospital robots (1)

duckInferno (1275100) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835051)

Hospital robot = sounds much too practical and boring. Unless they can turn me into Darth Vader, I want no part of it.

Mechanical Squirrels on the other hand is where all the R&D should be at. High tech enough to follow me wherever I go; through water, lava, speeding down the road at supersonic speeds. The sheer volume of applications would be tremendous.

Re:Screw hospital robots (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835403)

Darth Vader wasn't a robot though. He just had artificial limbs and lung assistance, and needed a cool suit to make it all look less grotesque. It's not that far out of the realm of possibility to do something like that at this point, really.

Re:Screw hospital robots (1)

duckInferno (1275100) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835439)

I was referring to the end of ep 3 where they had all those robot doctors/assistants running around replacing his body parts, not the body parts themselves

Help Me (2, Insightful)

nickswitzer (1352967) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835125)

So if they learn to follow really well, we can dance partners for those that don't have any rhythm or rhyme to their dance moves at all. And finally someone(thing) that can dance like Usher. Sweet!

when I was a kid... we had Omnibot Jr. (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835281)

and there was a radio shack version as well, Robie Jr.
and the japanese had a version, called "charmmy"

the remote had an ultrasonic transmitter, and you input fwd, back, left & right commands which were transmitted
inaudibly, but as the robot had two microphones on his sholders- he followed commands.

then you flipped the 'follow me' switch- and he just homed in on the remote--- using 'stereo'

this was back in the 1980's

what's the big deal? can't the doc carry something that can be tracked from two points on the robot?
imagine, a doctor has a nambadge with an rfid on it (likely already does-even if he doesn't know it) and the robot has
dual RFID readers.... Ping!

There's goes the last advantage to being German (2, Funny)

RexDevious (321791) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835365)

I was always precise, fast, and prone to crashing at work; but what really set me apart from the crowd was, being half German, I was a "born follower". I *hate* leading, what with all the decisions and vague metrics of success. I much prefer basking in the flawless execution of my assigned tasks, even when they were morally ambiguous or made no sense at all. I make a great programmer because computers also demand you do things "their way", even it only a tiny fraction of the population can stomach it.

It's only a small step from following leaders physically to following them figuratively. I can only hope that *some* company sticks with the current approach of producing software that treats me as the spineless meat-bag that I am.

Re:There's goes the last advantage to being German (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24842381)

(almost logged in, but not worth the trouble of the pw reset...)

That's really strange. I am also half-German, and exhibit much of the same behavior. I hate leading, but I relish the accomplishment of my part, supporting the whole.


Re:There's goes the last advantage to being German (1)

RexDevious (321791) | more than 5 years ago | (#24911597)

In all honesty, I think the vast majority of people are like this. German heritage only comes into play because we get raised with a perspective of strong pride in being part of well organized group rather than a perspective which values you according to how high up the ladder you are. It's a good perspective we have, because any society will need more followers than leaders (or as my first well-run programming outfit put it, "We need more Indians, not more Chiefs").

However... the qualities that make *most* people into leaders is not their ability to lead wisely, but their ability to get others to follow, period. Which is why, if you look at all the leaders the human race has ever had, they come off as being significantly worse human beings than the ordinary people you've met in your life.

So in all seriousness, I think we really would be better off with "Robot" leaders. Things which unquestionably accept our principles and guidelines, yet also possess the ability to get people to follow them.

In a way, laws are like that. We have a law that says you can't murder someone unless in self defense. And if you do so, you can argue all you want that you should have been able to, but the law remains written exactly as it was as still applies to you. Sure, you change the law later, but it doesn't retroactively make what you did legal.

The only problem with just having laws alone, is they lack the ability to get you to follow them voluntarily. So you have to create a law enforcement component. And that puts a big gap between those making the laws, and those following them - leading ultimately to bad laws. And even outside of that, someone who can get you to follow them can also get you to disregard those laws.

Now, imagine a computer (like the one you're using or one inside a mobile robot), that had the ability to get you to follow it voluntarily. You program it with the motivation to say, induce you to complete whatever items you put on your todo list, and it essentially talks you into it. On a personal level, you'd be incredibly productive. It would be like having a boss who didn't care about his salary or the company's profits - only your personal advancement.

99.999% of us spend our lives as "followers" in our social hierarchy. As children we do as our parents, as young people we do what our parents, teachers, and peer groups say, and after a brief debacle as college students who don't really follow anyone, we wind up as adults doing what our boss's say. In our unstructured time, we pretty much do what - sorry - marketers of leisure say. We very rarely "lead", and when we do it's a lot more difficult than following.

I wrote a program once to manage my free time productively. When it got to the point where it was more qualified to do that than I was - it didn't matter. Because it hadn't made me feel like it's "follower" yet.

Look at any person or group that gets people to follow. The less qualified the better. You'll see a staggeringly large amount of similarities. If we can give these abilities to machines, the ability to get us to follow them voluntarily - perhaps one day we really will have Robot Leaders. And if you're a programmer or engineer - you know that bullshit about computers randomly changing their goals to selfish ones is *never* going to happen. We programs malfunction, 99 times out of 100 they simply crash. The other time they do something clearly wrong. Ever see a spreadsheet formula get corrupted in a way that just so happens to increase the budget for spreadsheet programs? Me neither.

The *last* thing we need is robot followers, because as a species we've consistently produced terrible leaders. But we do have very good goals (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, protect and serve, tell the truth, the whole truth etc.) - we just need *leaders* who will follow those goals as faithfully as a computer follows it's programs.

Give me a few years :-). I read way more psychology books than programming books. For the time being though, I'm testing my theories in the online advertising industry. Yeah, it's kind of evil. But if I can figure out how to give a computer the ability to make you buy something you don't need, I can eventually give it the ability to make you go to the gym, or quit smoking, or study for a certification when the advertising industry is trying to get you to drink a beer and watch South Park. Or in my case, program a boss, CEO, or politician which actually does what we want them to do.

Don't worry though, I'll go Assimov's 3 laws and GPL all the way. Power like that needs to stay ultimately in the hands of those who would be subjected to it. Like Democracy is, when we bother to take the time to practice it.

RE: Path (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835367)

Let's just hope that the leader has not turned to the dark side.

Forever Following (1)

hidannik (1085061) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835441)

Not only will it follow you, but it can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with, it doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until....

Well, you know the rest.

what's so hard about it? (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835499)

You'd think following robots would be a no brainer. Put an infrared beacon on the human & program the robot to always be within a certain distance of it.

Creatures that follow you around? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24835501)

Thanks, but I already have cats.

Re:Creatures that follow you around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24844053)

Hungry cats can even follow you from the front.

It's a trap! (1)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 5 years ago | (#24835511)

Oh sure following is what they WANT us to think they're doing! They start a comfortable 10' away at first, and then over the weeks slowly begin to follow closer and closer until....wait for it... BAM, robotic piano string around your neck with the soft whirrring sound of hydraulic motors tightening their metallic arms pulling the wire tighter and tighter around your neck until they toss your lifeless corpse in a mass grave.

New behaviour (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24837327)

"But when the robotic "rats" were put into a rectangular arena like that used for experiments with real rats, the robots showed a new behavior. They scuttled along the walls and repeatedly bumped into one corner, but favored one wall. Instead of stopping in a corner they kept going, circling the arena."

BUG in code ???

Human ability? (1)

Weedlekin (836313) | more than 5 years ago | (#24840617)

How precisely does following a leader based on signals they give qualify as mimicking a human ability? Ants, bees, and sardines can do this without colliding with whoever is in front or those going in the opposite direction, with bees and sardines managing to do it in three dimensions. Anyone who has seen ducks and geese migrating in neat triangular formations knows that birds also follow leaders quite happily, possibly because nobody's bothered to tell them that it's a human ability which creatures with tiny brains like theirs aren't capable of.

d0g! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24840699)

Come here, d0g! Good boy!

21st century fairy tale! (1)

Roadkills-R-Us (122219) | more than 5 years ago | (#24844147)

So now if we can just teach a robot to play the flute, we can have robot pied pipers followed by robot rats all over the place. Then at last humanity will be fulfilled.

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