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Originally published December 4 2006

Researchers are teaching robots to interact intelligently with humans

by Jerome Doulgas

(NaturalNews) Robots have been a part of research labs and automated factories for quite some time, but now some of them are playing hide-and-seek with scientist Alan Schultz.

Teaching this robot named George to find a place to hide and then hunt for a human playmate is a new level of human interaction rarely seen in robot design, according to Schultz.

The breakthrough with George and other pieces of machinery like him are that these machines must take cues from people and behave accordingly -- and that may just be the start of a real robot revolution -- giving them some humanity.

Cynthia Breazeal -- robotic life group director at MIT -- stated that "Robots in the human environment, to me that's the final frontier the human environment is as complex as it gets; it pushes the envelope." Breazeal added "Robots have to understand people as people right now, the average robot understands people like a chair: It's something to go around."

The nature of robotics is morphing from advanced software and mechanical gears operating remotely -- be it on the planet Mars, the bottom of the ocean, or on automobile assembly lines -- to working with and besides people. In fact, some robots may soon be operating on people themselves.

Researchers who are tying together humanity and robotics are creating robotic machines that do connect with humans in a more "thoughtful" way as opposed to "objects" to interact with on the basis of a mere physical reality. Huggable -- a teddy-bear robot that can monitor the physical health of sick children -- is one of the newer breed of humanistic robots. Some robots are even coaxing autistic kids out of their shells.

All of these newer humanistic robots are why George's hide-and-seek game is important. As a machine, George is not a breakthrough -- but he may be the beginning of an entirely new breed of robotic machines that interact with people, not deal with people as objects like chairs and tables.

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