Teaching Robots By Demonstration Shown To Be Effective, For Users And Robots

Saturday, November 17, 2012

PR2 Robot
Robots only do what we program them to do and therein lies a huge obstacle to the dream of practical robot helpers in the home and workplace. Now, the field of user experience is increasingly being used to teach robots and AI  to perform tasks with a hands-on teaching method.  New research shown at Willow Garage points to the success of this methodology in making robots easier to use and more effective.
One of the key features of Rethink Robotics' recently released Baxter robot is the way it is programmed.  Baxter was designed with the user in mind from the beginning and it is reflected in the ease at which the light industrial robot can be trained (or programmed).

Now, researchers at Willow Garage are also developing the user experience of training robots.  Specifically they are performing user studies on how to train a PR2 mobile manipulator with little to no instruction on how to do so.
Maya Cakmak from Georgia Tech, envisions robots that can be programmed by their end-users for their own specific needs. This past summer, Maya worked on developing a spoken dialog interface that allows users to program new skills by physically moving PR2’s two arms and using simple speech commands.

Calmak wants the user experience of someone using a robot for the first time to be like using an appliance.  When is the last time you had to read a manual or attend a training course to use a toaster?
 Calmak and her colleagues conducted a user study that replicates the described scenario. Participants in this study (15 men and 15 women, ages 19-70) with no prior knowledge of how to program the robot were left alone with the robot and a combination of supplementary materials. They had to figure out on their own how to program different skills such as picking up medicine from a cabinet or folding a towel.

Robot Folding laundry
The user study revealed that information presented in the user manual easily gets overlooked and instructional videos are most useful in jump starting the interaction. In addition, trial-and-error plays a crucial role especially for achieving a certain proficiency level.
User studies like this, provide important insights into how the interface and the supplementary material should be designed to improve the learnability of end-user programmable robots. 

SOURCE  Willow Garage

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