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Science Nation: Developing Robots That Can Teach Humans

3 minutes

[explosion]

(male narrator) When it comes to communication, sometimes it's our body language that says the most. Especially the eyes. That gaze tells us all sorts of things about attention, about mental states, about roles in conversations. Hi, I'm Wakamaru. Nice to meet you.

(narrator) What happens when you design machines to gaze just like people do? Scientists at the University of Wisconsin are looking into that. We can build animated agents and robots that can communicate more effectively by using the very subtle cues that people use.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, computer scientists Bilge Mutlu and Michael Gleicher are developing computational models designed to give robots and animated characters lifelike gaze behavior. I have a task for you to categorize these objects into boxes.

(narrator) Mutlu demonstrated an experiment that looks at how well humans carry out a robot-directed sorting task. The robot very naturally glances toward the objects it wants sorted as it speaks. Would you put the green object with one peg into the red box?

(narrator) Here, the robot just stares at the person. Could you help me put the green object with two pegs that is shorter into the red box, please?

(Mutlu) When the robot uses humanlike gaze cues, people are faster in locating objects that need moving.

(narrator) Another experiment explores how an animated character's eyes affect human learning. I'll tell you a story that comes from ancient China.

(Gleicher) When the lecturer looked at the map to indicate to the participant that "Now I'm talking about something on the map," the participant learned more about the spatial locations.

(narrator) The Wisconsin team hopes their work will transform how humanoid robots and animated characters interface with people, especially in classrooms.

(Mutlu) We can design technology that really benefits people in learning, in health and well-being, and cooperative work.

(narrator) That's technology worth keeping an eye on. Isn't that cute? For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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Bilge Mutlu, a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison knows a thing or two about the psychology of body language. With support from the National Science Foundation, Mutlu and his fellow computer scientist, Michael Gleicher, take a gaze into the behavior of humans and create algorithms to reproduce it in robots and animated characters. Both Mutlu and Gleicher are betting that there will be significant benefits to making robots and animated characters look more like humans.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Episode 9
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Episode 10
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