If You Want a Robot to Learn Better, Be a Jerk to It - #technoskeptic #dystopia

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But in comes a so-called adversarial human actor, a sort of additional signal. If the robot finds a good grasp, the human uses a graphical interface to click on the object it’s gripping and apply a force in a certain direction. That disturbance basically tests how good the grasp really is, and helps the robot rule out the less effective ones.

“The robot learned to grasp objects much more robustly using this additional signal that the human was providing, but also learned to generalize to new objects much better,” says USC roboticist Stefanos Nikolaidis, coauthor on a new paper describing the work. To put a number on it, when a human was giving the robot tough love, the machine had a 52 percent success rate at grasping, compared to 26.5 percent without the tough love.

All that said, the experiment shows there’s merit in challenging robots instead of constantly coddling them. This is particularly important with a problem as complex as grasping, which has little margin for error. “If we want robots to be out there helping people with different types of motor impairments, we don’t want them to break things 10 percent of the time,” says Nikolaidis. Imagine unloading your dishwasher and dropping 10 percent of the dishes, and how mad you would be at yourself. Now imagine how mad you would be if a robot in your house did the same."

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