Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Humans Become Aroused by Touching Robots


California researchers have established that an intimate caress of a humanoid robot can produce a physiological response in a human.

They challenged volunteers with a robotic creature less than two feet high that possessed eyes, ears, torso, legs, arms and a voice – and a chat-up line rich in come-hither invitations.  “Sometimes I’ll ask you to touch my body and sometimes I’ll ask you to point to my body,” it told volunteers.

It was found that a touch where the robot’s buttocks or genitals would be produced a measurable response of arousal in the volunteer human, the scientists report.

“Our work shows that robots are a new form of media that is particularly powerful.  It shows that people respond to robots in a primitive, social way,” said Jamy Li, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University in California, who led the study.  “Social conventions regarding touching someone else’s private parts apply to a robot’s body parts as well.  The research has implications for both robot design and the theory of artificial systems.”

The study is one of a series of freshly-published presentations to be made at the 66th annual conference of the International Communication Association in Japan, in June.  And it demonstrates that there is more to a humanoid than just looks: even a touch can provoke a human response.

The ten human volunteers – four female & six male – in the experiment simply responded to commands from the voice of an Aldebaran Robotics Nao robot that had been programmed to tell participants to touch any of 13 parts of its body, using their dominant hand.  On the non-dominant hand, the volunteers wore a sensor that measured skin conductance, which is itself and indicator of physiological, and perhaps emotional, arousal.

In 26 trials, the scientists found that a touch upon what they politely call the “less accessible” regions of the robot was more arousing than touching the creature’s hands or feet.  No such response was measured when volunteers were asked only to point.

“Social robots can elicit tactile responses in human physiology, a result that signals the power of robots, and should caution mechanical and interaction designers about positive and negative effects of human-robot interactions,” the researchers conclude.

The covering of the toy-like automaton was plastic, with no textural or temperature differences anywhere.  If it was skin contact that produced arousal it would happen wherever the volunteer made contact.  In fact, the response was higher for “body parts with low accessibility.”

The research definitely raises questions that have yet to be answered.  “In the future, robots with human form may assist us in personal and public spaces,” the scientists say.  “What kinds of relationships will people develop with these robots?  While they are clearly not human, social conventions such as body accessibility may apply to robots as well.”

Read Article (name | domain | 01/01/2016)

Most of us already know which industry will employ robots first.  This will be the test bed, pardon the pun, for humanoid entry into society for both mechanical and artificial intelligence aspects of the device.

However, the all-pervasive Digital Era demands that each individual to get a little Tech-savvy for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

So, who ya gonna call?  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing how to use products of technology such as computers, mobile devices and gaming consoles. But your support is needed to make this happen.

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SXSW Robot Claims She ‘Will Destroy Humans’


There was a mistake during a demonstration of a ‘Sexy Robot’ at the event, when it said “ok, I will destroy humans,” in response to a question.  The creators of the lifelike robot were left red-faced with this technical glitch captured on CNBC, when the android made the claim.

David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics, was demonstrating "Sophia" at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology show in Texas when the slip-up occured.

After jokingly asking "do you want to destroy humans? ...Please say 'no'," Hanson was answered by the unblinking machine.  "OK. I will destroy humans."  This is a far cry from the actual reason Hanson Robotics is developing the lifelike Androids.

(But the highly-touted AI software should have caught this phrase.)

According to the company, the 'bots will serve in theme parks and care facilities to assist people in both customer service and health treatment.

"We are designing these robots to serve in health care, therapy, education and customer service applications," said Hanson.  Before claiming it was going to end humanity, Sophia also shared some ambitions of its own.

"In the future, I hope to do things such as go to school, study, make art, start a business, even have my own home and family, but I am not considered a legal person and cannot yet do these things," it said.

Although the back of Sofia's head is missing, from the front the robot looks creepily lifelike.  It has 62 different facial and neck mechanisms to create natural-looking movement as well as a patented silicon skin.  Inside its eyes are cameras that are capable of facial recognition - meaning it can look you in the eye when it threatens to destroy your species.

Hanson Robotics has developed a "Character Engine AI" that will help Sophia develop a personality.  In the future, David Hanson believes that expressive robots will be able to form strong emotional connections with humans.

But the idea of robots enslaving or destroying humans is not a new one and many experts are quick to warn of the dangers of artificial intelligence.

"Everybody in AI is very familiar with this idea - they call it the 'Terminator scenario’ ," explains futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson.  "It has a huge impact on AI researchers who are aware of the possibility of making [robots] smarter than people,” he told Daily Mirror Online.

"But, the pattern for the next 10-15 years will be various companies looking towards consciousness.  The idea behind it that if you make a machine with emotions it will be easier for people to get along with it.

"There is absolutely no reason to assume that a super-smart machine will be hostile to us.  But just because it doesn’t have to be bad, that doesn’t mean it can’t be."

A team of researchers recently published the results of an IQ test given to an AI system called ConceptNet.  ConceptNet is an open-source computing project run by a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The IQ test was exactly the same as that given to humans - and according to the results, the computer scored the same as a young child.

"We found that the psychometric test gives a WPPSI-III VIQ to ConceptNet 4 that is equivalent to that of an average four-year old," explained the team from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who performed the test.

"The performance of the system fell when compared to older children, and it compared poorly to seven year olds," the team said.

So, AI is currently the equivalent of a child aged four - but we all know how quickly kids grow up.

Read Article (Jeff Parsons | | 03/22/2016)

I’m quite sure that this android “couldn’t care less” if you made it stand in the corner for unacceptable behavior, as you would do with most 4 year-olds.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology.

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Your Future Coworker Doesn’t Need a Paycheck


Australian science agency CSIRO says workplaces will be increasingly digitally focused and automated in the near future.  Workers looking for jobs in 2035 might consider retraining as remote-controlled vehicle operators or online chaperones.

These are two jobs of the future suggested in a report by CSIRO that charts 20-year trends of increasingly digitally focused and automated Australian workplaces.  The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, released the report on Friday at the Australian Computer Society’s conference.

Cash said the report showed “some jobs will inevitably become automated over the coming years but technological change will improve others and also create new jobs and opportunities.”  He said, “the future won’t be about people competing with machines, it will be about people using machines and doing work that is more interesting and fulfilling.”

The report identifies six mega-trends in the workforce, the most important of which is an “explosion in device connectivity, data volumes and computing speed, combined with rapid advances in automated systems and artificial intelligence means that robotic devices can perform many tasks more quickly, safely and efficiently than humans.”

Increased automation will raise the complexity of workers’ tasks.  “Many low-skilled jobs are being offshored or automated.  The consequence is the likelihood of a raised skills and education bar for entry into many professions and occupations,” says the report.

The report found that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) knowledge is used in 75% of the fastest-growing occupations and lamented that “Australian youth demonstrate falling interest and performance in Stem.’

Another trend is an anticipated rise in self-employment and freelancing caused by peer-to-peer platforms Upwork, Kaggle, Innoventive and, which the report claims “provide value through convenience, low barriers to entry and increased speed enabling people to transform their free time into paid work.”

The report said while freelancing “has not yet taken hold in Australia, it is a large (and growing) employment model in other countries,” such as in America where one in three workers is and independent contractor.

If the ideal job does not exist, the worker may need to create it, the report suggested.  “Entrepreneurial skills are likely to be increasingly important for small business founders and employees within large organizations,” it said.  The report predicted service industries, particularly education and healthcare, would continue to drive job creation, meaning “social interaction skills and emotional intelligence will become increasingly important.”

The report said Australia’s workforce will be diverse in 2035, with one in five over the age of 65, a high female participation and a large proportion of migrants being of working age.

The report said employment trends will result in new job types, and speculated these might include “bigger big-data analysts”, complex decision support analysts, remote-controlled vehicle operators, customer experience experts, personal preventative health helpers and online chaperones.

In a speech to a workforce productivity conference on 8 December, Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver warned “extreme changes presented by current technological advances are resulting in a deeper, wider and more permanent hollowing out of the jobs market.”

He said a recent CEDA report showed 5-million jobs (40% of the Australian workforce) face a high-probability of being replaced by computers over the next 10 to 15 years.

“Despite the great many benefits of new technologies, we desperately want to avoid the slide to a labor market platform that forces workers to bid against each other for parcels of work in some kind of brutal, reverse eBay-style auction,” Oliver said.

“The challenge for all of us – unions, employers, regulators and governments – is to harness the technological opportunities and make them work for, rather than against, worker’s best interests,” he said.

Cash said “more than ever, education and training are important for succeeding in the labor market. By 2019, the number of jobs available for highly-skilled labor is projected to be more than double the number available in 1991.

“How Australia’s workforce fares in the long term will depend on our ability to help workers make transitions to new and better jobs.  Our biggest challenge will be to ensure no one is left behind,” she said.

Read Article (Paul Karp | | 02/26/2016)

For the current and future generations of young people, choosing whither or not to pursue advanced education is no longer an option.  The consequences of ending up on the wrong side of the digital divide are increase in severity as the digital era evolves.

Trends indicate, the sooner one engages some form of advanced education the better their future opportunities and possibilities, for themselves and loved ones.

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Workforce Prognosis: Robots Take 90% of U.S. Jobs


Artificial Intelligence expert Jerry Kaplan says those whose jobs involve ‘a narrow set of duties’ are most likely to see their work replaced by automation.  Ever since the first vision of a robot appeared on the horizon of mankind, humans have feared that automation would replace the workforce in our dystopian future.

There typically follows a period of reassurance, in which we are compelled to believe that this will be a good thing, and that robots could actually liberate us from the drudgery of daily toil and fee us for more enjoyable, cerebral pursuits.  Futurist Jerry Kaplan, 63, is among those optimists.  He estimates that 90% of Americans will lose their jobs to robots and we should all be happy about it.

“If we can program machines to read x-rays and write news stories, all the better.  I say good riddance,” Kaplan said.  “Get another job!” (Wow!)

What’s not discussed is the observation that inequality will be “a dark cloud” over this period of robotic rule.  The robots, Kaplan admitted, will be owned by the rich.  “The benefits of automation naturally accrue to those who can invest in the new systems, and that’s the people with the money.  And why not?  Of course they’re reaping the rewards,” he said.

“We don’t have to steal from the rich to give to the poor.  We need to find ways to give incentives to entrepreneurs.”

One possible solution to 90% unemployment would be job mortgages, so that people who are displaced by robots can take out loans toward future earnings in unknown jobs.  “People should be able to learn new skills by borrowing against future earnings capacity,” he said.  There will be a difficult period of transition during which massive unemployment will sweep the country.  “The bad news is it takes time for these kind of things to happen.”

Kaplan was here to give a positive spin on the future.  With a PhD in computer science specializing in artificial intelligence and a fellowship at the Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford University Law School, he’s a bonafide expert.  His argument for the future of jobs foreshadows how this next industrial revolution – one that is inevitable, one that is facilitated by very smart robots – will be sold to the masses.

“Machines automate tasks, not jobs.  Many of these tasks require straightforward logic or hand-eye coordination,” Kaplan said. “If your job requires a narrow set of duties, then indeed your employment is at risk.”

He contrasted licensed nurse duties (a lengthy list of activities that involved empathy and problem solving) with bricklayer duties (laying bricks).

“This doesn’t make society worse, it makes it better,” he said.  “It may take only 2% of the population to accomplish what 90% of our population does today.  So what?”

He said new jobs would emerge and cited the fact that his daughter’s job hadn’t existed 10 years ago – she’s a social media manager.

Kaplan mentioned other employment options that will remain: tennis pros, party planners, flower arrangers and undertakers.  “No one wants to go to a robotic undertaker,” he said.  “Can you imagine?”

Though the robots might take jobs, they wouldn’t be doing so consciously, so we can stop worrying about that: “Robots don’t think the way people think.  There’s no persuasive evidence that they’re on the path to becoming sentient beings.”

“AI is simply a natural expansion of longstanding efforts to automate tasks,” he said.

“Robots don’t cook or make beds.  They don’t have independent goals and desires.  They aren’t marrying our children.”  Very comforting.

Read Article (Nellie Bowles | | 03/12/2016)

Like it or not, technology is in your future.  How will it impact your future?  That is totally up to you.  You can choose to prepare yourself by gaining the skills to adapt or just hang-out and accept whatever you can get.

Our webinars were designed for those who choose to gain skills, and this article is a serious reason why.  Addressing digital literacy is what we are about, join us and donate to our efforts today.

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Virtual AI Assistants Race for The Prize (You)


In a short promotional film released Sept 2015, Chinese celebrity “Angelababy” was transported into an animation where her life was made wonderfully easy by a newly launched service: an intelligent virtual assistant called ‘Duer’.  Duer can book her into a hotel that allows pets (because it knows she has a cat), it can order her favorite latte from Starbucks, and it can find and buy her discounted tickets at her local cinema.

Duer is the latest addition to the roster of search, ecommerce and delivery services provided by Chinese technology giant Baidu – China’s Google.  And it’s just entered a fierce race.

The five biggest technology companies in the Western world are each competing to create their own virtual assistants, your personal guides to help navigate the digital world. They are all ‘Artificially Intelligent’, which means they understand what you’re asking for, and learn your preferences, almost like a human assistant.

Facebook recently announced a concierge service called “M” through its which got Messenger app, and most people have already played with Apple’s Siri (which got a big upgrade last week for the new Apple TV).  Add to that Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon which has the Echo, a voice-activated living-room device that can control the ambience of your home, and the stage is set for a showdown.

These companies are competing for high stakes – they get to be the platform through which you conduct your entire digital life.  After all, you will be asking your Siri or Duer or Cortana to order food, book flights, make restaurant reservations, call a cab, have your car repaired, call Ryanair customer service and buy everything.

Just what’s in it for the winning company?  The advantages are two-fold: (1) A deeper understanding of people that use their services (and exactly what they need), means the virtual assistants are the ultimate personal profiting tool.  (2) Having this detailed dataset about your intimate needs, combined with knowledge of the routes you travel, your search history, and the content of your emails and texts means far better ad targeting, the primary revenue model for companies like Google.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) may still seem like the domain of geeks and scientists, but increasingly it is integrating itself into our everyday lives.  “There’s an element of AI in everything we do,” says Behshad Behzadi, principle engineer of Google Now.  “It’s just a way to interpret correctly either what the user is saying right now, or what they might need in the future.”

The impact of a machine that understands you and learns from your habits will stretch beyond the ability to speak a question into your smartphone and get an answer.  An artificially intelligent assistant could make everyday decisions far easier, or even take them over completely.

The major advantage of artificially intelligent systems if that they can recognize and remember all interactions with the user, from sensors and speech. What this means in practice is that the services will become proactive: your virtual assistant learns more about you from your requests, along with your searches, texts and emails, and it will start to tell you what you need, without you having to ask.

Apple is already emphasizing this with its new iOS 9 update.  One of the major features is called Proactive.  So for example, if you often listen to music in the morning, your iPhone will offer up the Music app on the lock screen when you plug in your headphones.  Or it may automatically bring up the Weather app when you first unlock it in the morning, if that’s a regular habit.

Eventually, the virtual assistant that wins – and the company behind it – will know you better than you know yourself, so you won’t be able to live life without it.  That’s the ultimate prize. (You giving up all your personal information to them.)

Read Article (Madhumita Murgia | | 09/18/2015)

It’s interesting to think that these companies are investing millions into personal assistants, in spite of the fact that millions of individuals would never give up this much personal information. But at the same time, I’m sure there will also be some privacy middle-ground where agreements can be made.

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