Exploding Digital Science
Have you ever want to see what goes on inside a robot mind? We see robots make decisions for themselves every day. Think about an autopilot system in an airplane. These systems can take information about the environment around them and have the plane function accordingly. What actually happens inside that robotic thought process? A team of scientists and grad student at MIT want to get a glimpse inside the robot brain and so they developed a way to visually represent what goes on when a machine make the decision?
In their experiment the decision was a pretty straightforward one — how to cross a room without hitting a pacing human? The visualization system they developed is called measurable virtual-reality. It uses an 18 motion capture cameras on the ceiling to track multiple simultaneous movement. Computer software then render the robotic processes that we can’t see projecting the information visually on the ground in the test space. That rendering was the robot stop process.
A large pink dot marks the robots perception at the pedestrians position. A series of lines crossing the floor represented the possible routes the robot was considering taking. These routes are color-coded. tThe green line marking the optimal route across the brim but the environment was always changing and here’s where it gets interesting. The pink dot behind the pedestrian moved as he paced and the route lines shifted in response to these changes. The robot understand the changes to the room and change its possible routes.
This visualization of a robot thought process is really neat but there’s a practical side to it too. The researchers realized that in projecting the robots thoughts they could see the underlying problems and algorithms and make the necessary fixes much faster. It’s the kind of insight into robotic minds that could lead to better autopilot systems and drones in future because there’s no shortage of uncertainty for robot to deal with in the real world. So, helping get the better brains to process those uncertainties could only be an improvement and maybe we’ll see consumers spin off version of this visualization system that will lead to see what are robots are thinking as the vacuum the room.