Blab Droids – Self-Learning Social Cloud Robots: Alex Reben at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

So, we’re becoming evermore integrated with technology. It’s everywhere. But technology is really what we make of it. And, we should really bring it to the next level. And I think the way we can do this, is ask the question, “how can technology learn from us?” And the way it can learn from us, is that we can teach it. We can teach about humanity. And by doing so, it can make us more human.

Lack of understanding knowledge and empathy, is the root cause of many human problems.  And I believe we could use technology, to increase our level of understanding. We can get knowledge from places like the Internet, but the Internet in itself is not inquisitive. These are the BlabDroids. And they are robots created to learn about people.

And they do this by going around, and asking people questions, as most of us do when we want to learn. And you can see they are very cute, and made to be very friendly. Because if you want to have a relationship with a robot, it better be pretty nice. So, next you’ll see a couple of examples of the BlabDroids asking some people somewhat difficult questions.

Robot: if you could give someone any gift, what would it be?

Woman: Give my mother the gift of not worrying about me before she dies. And she wants me to lose, like a ton of weight, and get really really healthy. And she needs to see that, before she dies. For her to feel like I am going to be Ok when she is not here, and I wish I could give her that. And I am not positive I can. You asked!

Robot: if you died tomorrow, what would you regret the most?

Woman: I switched out her shampoo for a Nair hair remover when she wasn’t looking, and clumps of her hair fell out. I felt like she deserved it, it’s very much still justified. And I would do it again to her in a heartbeat. I still don’t like her. So these are the types of things that you may not tell a person who is coming up to you with questions, but the robots in fact got those answers. So, the ideas are these robots will become a tangible manifestation of cloud intelligence that can both learn and teach. And as I said before, the Internet in itself doesn’t necessarily learn, but these robots can be made in a way that we want to interact with them on a very high level.

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Think of them as if you had a dog in your house that asked you questions, but you could also ask it questions. So how do we make something like this happen? Well the first step is making it, and we partnered with a few people like Dragon innovation to do manufacturing and bolt to form a company around us. The idea is that these Robots, will connect to the cloud through your cell phone using bluetooth. So we’re all carrying around these devices in our pockets that are basically very smart computers, and they also have network connectivity. So, we can do things with a robot like, asking simple questions, you know, will it rain? The robot would say, yeah, it might rain, you may want an umbrella.

But asking it more difficult questions like, are we alone in the universe, or things of that sort, Need a bit more of a human touch than things like Google or Wolfram Alpha, or things of that sort, may have a hard time answering. And one way to do this is use cloud knowledge and cloud intelligence. So say you have a question for BlabDroid, and it isn’t one of the simple things like, do I have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow? It might say, “Well, gee! I don’t know I’ll ask my friends.” So the robot then accesses the cloud, and talks to all his other BlabDroid buddies and asks them, “hey, does your human know something about this person’s question?” They may say, “Yes, let me contact them.” But as you can see, some of these guys are a little busy but a couple of them may have a good idea.

So these people can tell the robot the answer, either by looking up or maybe they’re an expert in the field. And that knowledge can be returned to that robot. And at the same time, that knowledge can be saved online in this sort of emergent intelligence where, OK, the robot couldn’t find it through traditional means, now it’s stored that human knowledge. So imagine like, a Robot asking grandma what her favorite cookie recipe is. That’s something that might have been lost to time in the past.

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But by using these social interfaces that can be stored. And there are obviously things right now where you can talk to your cell phone, and talk to other things where you can ask it questions and they’ll give you answers, but the primitive parts for our brains don’t think cell phones are alive, even if they had voices because they’re not persistent beings, they’re not objects that always stay alive, in a way, where, a robot, a robot in itself is a physical form, so even though it is connected to this cloud intelligence, it’s something that our brains perceive as alive, and the way you want to do this, is that we want them to be very fun and playful, so you want to talk to them, you want to converse with them, not only asking them things, but also having them with you as companions.

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