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Communicating with Robots and Bots

One the most enjoyable pieces of writing (and collating of research, videos, news articles, images etc) about robots this year has been my collaboration with Gwyneth Peaty to put together the Curtin Net3X MOOC Communicating with Robots and Bots.

The MOOC opens today. It’s self-paced and free to access, so anyone can give it a go to see if they’re interested.

Reasons it was fun to work on? Well, it was a great opportunity to set aside some of the formality of academic writing (not that I am that formal in many things I write) while still discussing my favourite topics, robots and communication. It was also good to be working with other people, Gwyneth on the actual course content design, but also the whole MOOC team at Curtin, who were excellent, helpful and made the whole thing a pleasure (in particular the video creation with Brendan, which is not something I feel that comfortable with, in spite of the fact that I’m automatically videoed every time I give a lecture).

As Gwyneth has reminded me, these are the robots that started our collaboration in many ways:

Whiteboard robots

The humanoid robot is the first robot Gwyneth ever drew for me (I think). I responded with my non-humanoid robot and its thought bubble, “Why is that robot like a human?”. The dog (robot?) came along shortly after. They’ve been through a few changes, some of which you might be able to see in the sidebar posted through the robotothers Instagram account.

It would be great to see people try out the Communicating with Robots and Bots MOOC. I’d love to know what you think and if there are issues in the content just let me know and I’ll see what I can do to fix things. The main hashtag for the MOOC is #curtinnet3x, and there are some additional tags if you’re taking part and posting your ideas for robots, #net3xfirstrobot and #net3xfinalrobot.

2019 Big change, big plans

2019 was going to be the year of my blog and my writing (big plans). I went part time on my return to work in January (big change). I had an extensive and complex spreadsheet planning method prepared by two weeks in. That spreadsheet contained all my teaching and research commitments for the first half of the year, subdivided into tasks with time estimates allocated to specific weeks. A pivot table on the next worksheet showed me how well my plans tracked against the time I had available each week on my 0.6 FTE.

I was prepared to document how I was going with this planning process, as well as other techniques I wanted to put into practice for managing my time and writing more, on my blog.  That didn’t happen.

Also, guess how long my use of that spreadsheet lasted. Go on, guess. I don’t even want to go back and check. Semester rolled around, teaching took over (even with my hugely reduced load) and I commenced operation “Fail to Write Research Until the Very Last Minute”.

Today I am going to institute a new mindset. Yes, I am writing at the last minute. Again. This time I am channeling some words from my golf clinic last night.

Don’t think about what you’re trying to do. Just think, “I’ve got this”. Take some time getting your stance right, whatever club you’re using, and swing.

This is remarkably similar to some advice given to me by one of my mentors, John Hartley, in relation to writing.

Don’t think, “I’m going to try to write today”. Don’t try, just write.

Wish me luck.

 

Emotional Robot Design

Recently I had the opportunity to present about robots and emotion. This was a topic I’ve talked about before, and wrote about in my PhD thesis. Some of the ideas also came through in Robots and Communication, but as I prepared for The Future of Emotions conference I realised that quite a few of my thought had never really appeared in any of my publications. There were lots of new robots (and ideas) to be included, of course, and I had a great time giving this talk.

For once, I remembered to record my talk, so I’ve decided to upload it here, along with my notes as a form of transcript (because I did stick to my notes on this occasion). I’ve also included a list of links below the recording, so that you can locate the websites for the robots I discuss. I’ve not put up my slides, because there were some images that I only used under Fair Dealing for Research and Study, so don’t want to publish on the public web. However, by visiting the websites you’ll get to see the robots and bots in detail.

Websites for the robots that I discuss (in the order they appear):

Jules and Sophia www.hansonrobotics.com

Zo www.zo.ai

Ava www.soulmachines.com

Kismet www.ai.mit.edu/projects/humanoid-robotics-group/kismet/kismet.html

Jibo www.jibo.com

AUR robotic.media.mit.edu/portfolio/aur/

Shimon www.shimonrobot.com

D. O. U. G. sougwen.com/project/drawing-operations

It’s always a bit of a gift when an international conference takes place just down the road. (At least, that’s what I think, as someone who doesn’t really enjoy travelling to attend conferences that much although I always have a great time once I’m there). The University of Western Australia is where I studied for my PhD. It has a beautiful campus, which I admit I skived in order to explore in the beautiful sunshine (and, yes, winter in Western Australia is like this quite a lot of the time).

UWA in Winter (beautiful and sunny image of trees, grass and sky)

Please let me know if you have any problems accessing the recording or the notes through a comment or an email. This is the first time I’ve put up a talk in this way, so it’s an experiment.

Lost epigraphs – Conclusion

Conclusion

yellow_quotationWe have to see the different maps as answering different kinds of question, questions which arise from different angles in different contexts. … The plurality that results is still perfectly rational. It does not drop us into anarchy or chaos (Midgley, 2002, p. 82).

The conclusion to Robots and Communication is very short, because really Part III was designed to wrap up the arguments of the chapters, while also taking the opportunity to draw together and further extend some overarching themes. In the conclusion, my aim was to explain one way of envisioning how the use of a number of theories can be helpful in understanding communicative situations, without the need to value one theory over another. In doing this, I drew on Mary Midgley’s writing about scientific theories, which I had found very helpful as I grappled with the research that was the basis for the book.

Midgley, M. (2002). Science and poetry. London; New York: Routledge.
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