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Home » How AI Will Step Off The Screen And Into The Real World: Daniela Rus (Transcript)

How AI Will Step Off The Screen And Into The Real World: Daniela Rus (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of AI pioneer Daniela Rus’ talk titled “How AI Will Step Off The Screen And Into The Real World” at TED2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


When I was a student studying robotics, a group of us decided to make a present for our professor’s birthday. We wanted to program our robot to cut a slice of cake for him. We pulled an all-nighter writing the software, and the next day, disaster. We programmed this robot to cut a soft, round sponge cake, but we didn’t coordinate well.

And instead, we received a square hard ice cream cake. The robot flailed wildly and nearly destroyed the cake. Our professor was delighted, anyway. He calmly pushed the stop button and declared the erratic behavior of the robot a control singularity. A robotics technical term.

I was disappointed, but I learned a very important lesson. The physical world, with its physics laws and imprecisions, is a far more demanding space than the digital world.

The Present and Future of AI and Robotics

Today, I lead MIT’s Computer Science and AI lab, the largest research unit at MIT. This is our building, where I work with brilliant and brave researchers to invent the future of computing and intelligent machines. Today in computing, artificial intelligence and robotics are largely separate fields. AI has amazed you with its decision-making and learning, but it remains confined inside computers.

Robots have a physical presence and can execute pre-programmed tasks, but they’re not intelligent. Well, this separation is starting to change. AI is about to break free from the 2D computer screen interactions and enter a vibrant, physical 3D world. In my lab, we’re fusing the digital intelligence of AI with the mechanical prowess of robots.

Moving AI from the digital world into the physical world is making machines intelligent and leading to the next great breakthrough, what I call physical intelligence. Physical intelligence is when AI’s power to understand text, images and other online information is used to make real-world machines smarter. This means AI can help pre-programmed robots do their tasks better by using knowledge from data.

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