Scientists to see through robots’ minds


MIT scientists have come up with a new system that can visually represent a robot’s decision-making process.

The system combines ceiling-mounted projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot’s intentions in real time.

Christened as the “measurable virtual reality (MVR) — a spin on conventional virtual reality that’s designed to visualize a robot’s perceptions and understanding of the world.
The system has been developed by Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, a postdoc in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Aerospace Controls Lab.

Agha-mohammadi said, a robot may make some decision, but it can’t quite tell what’s going on in its mind.
He further added, if the robot’s plan projected on the ground can be seen, it will help to connect what it perceives with what it does to make sense of its actions.

Agha-mohammadi said the system may help speed up the development of self-driving cars, package-delivering drones, and other autonomous, route-planning vehicles.

The team developed the system as a way to visually represent the robots’ decision-making process. The engineers mounted 18 motion-capture cameras on the ceiling to track multiple robotic vehicles simultaneously.

Next they developed computer software that visually renders hidden information, such as a robot’s possible routes, and its perception of an obstacle’s position. They projected this information on the ground in real time, as physical robots operated.

About other benefits, the researchers found that by projecting the robots’ intentions, they were able to spot problems in the underlying algorithms, and make improvements much faster than before.

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