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Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords

A machine learns how to manipulate delicate and irregular objects in Brown Universitys Humans to Robots lab.

Roboticists increasingly are studying human-robot interaction in the performance of complex tasks.

Credit: Grant Cornett/The New Yorker

Over the past decade, industrial robots and human laborers have switched roles, with robots now performing tasks while humans assist them. Roboticists such as Brown University professor Stefanie Tellex say they now are focused on human-robot interaction in the performance of complex tasks.

"We're trying to make robots that can robustly perceive and manipulate the objects in their environment," Tellex says.

Industrial robots that can operate in a constantly fluid environment represent a multi-billion-dollar business opportunity, but Tellex says her motivation for such projects is to help make society better.

Although politically fraught, the issue of workplace automation is considered by some to have positive ramifications, including less physical stress for workers, less noise and dirt in production plants, and greater productivity.

However, as automation raises efficiency in manufacturing and other sectors, the likelihood of machines eventually replacing the bulk of workforces escalates.

From The New Yorker
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Abstracts Copyright © 2017 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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