April 10, 2021

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How Children Beating Up a Robot Inspired a New Escape Maneuver System

How Children Beating Up a Robot Inspired a New Escape Maneuver System

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes a classic article from IEEE Spectrum:

A study by a team of Japanese researchers shows that, in certain situations, children are actually horrible little brats^W^W^W may not be as empathetic towards robots as we’d previously thought, with gangs of unsupervised tykes repeatedly punching, kicking, and shaking a robot in a Japanese mall…

The Japanese group didn’t just document the bullying behavior, though; they wanted to find clever ways of helping the robot avoid the abusive situations. They started by developing a computer simulation and statistical model of the children’s abuse towards the robot, showing that it happens primarily when the kids are in groups and no adults are nearby. Next, they designed an abuse-evading algorithm to help the robot avoid situations where tiny humans might gang up on it. Literally tiny humans: the robot is programmed to run away from people who are below a certain height and escape in the direction of taller people.

When it encounters a human, the system calculates the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 1.4 meters (4 feet 6 inches) in height. If the robot is statistically in danger, it changes its course towards a more crowded area or a taller person. This ensures that an adult is there to intervene when one of the little brats decides to pound the robot’s head with a bottle (which only happened a couple times).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.