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Linguists will be Teaching Robots to Obey

How do you get the robot to understand what to do? That is the robot researchers’ biggest challenge. A linguist will now help making the robots to understand instructions.

- The biggest challenge for robot researchers is to get the robot to understand what to do. It is still a mystery how to transfer a person’s knowledge of how a task should be resolved in to the robot, explains postdoctoral Leon Bodenhagen from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at the University of Southern Denmark.

Therefore, researchers have taken a very unconventional step. They have invited linguists into the robot laboratories. In a new European research project, in which the University of Southern Denmark participates, researchers will try to get the robots to understand and do as the supervisor instructs.

Huge potential
The linguists come from a university in Lithuania, and the hope is that they can help the robot to comprehend instructions in the same way as regular employees, so that it will be as easy to instruct the robot as to instruct an employee of flesh and blood.

If the researchers succeed in getting the robots to understand general instructions, it will revolutionise the market for robots. More than 70 per cent of all work in the Danish manufacturing companies are now done manually, although, the robots can often easily take over.

- The robots today are too advanced to work with. A small company cannot afford to have a robot expert hired to set the robot to solve new tasks, says Leon Bodenhagen, who has just written a PhD on robots that can find solutions to problems and learn from its mistakes.

The robot itself must find solutions
Leon Bodenhagen created a robot with a thumb and a forefinger, which can seize different objects and, for example, put them down again without the robot having been given prior instructions on how to do it. But it remains a mystery how to make the robot understand the given task without expert help.

- What we wish to achieve, is that the robot itself provides a suggestion as to how to solve the specific task without having to programme it first. It will make the robots much easier to operate and make the experts redundant, he explains.

Maintain companies in Denmark
Leon Bodenhagen believes that it is important to develop new robots that are easy to set to serve new functions. In this way, we ensure that fewer companies move abroad.

- A lot of the tasks in the manufacturing companies contain taking one thing and putting it in a box. Today, various companies load their products in trucks and drive them all the way to Lithuania to get it packed. It would be sad if suddenly the companies also chose to move the development of the products abroad, says Leon Bodenhagen.

For more information contact
Postdoctoral Leon Bodenhagen from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute: lebo@mmmi.sdu.dk / tel. 26149837