Education key to developing lifelike intelligent robots, study argues

Researchers say that future robotics designers and programmers need to expand their education in order to make robots more lifelike. Photo by TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay
Researchers say that future robotics designers and programmers need to expand their education in order to make robots more lifelike. Photo by TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Artificial intelligence has rapidly advanced over the last few decades, but this intelligence remains largely relegated to smartphones and computers.

The creation of lifelike artificially intelligent robots has been slow-going, and breakthroughs in what scientists call 'physical AI' remain few and far between.


In a new paper, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, researchers argue artificial intelligence has been too narrowly defined and biased by human hubris.

To rectify this shortcoming, the study's authors claim robot-makers need to be better educated.

"[Artificial intelligence] is on the one hand too attached to data-driven trends in deep learning and on the other hand too attached to what humans think of as intelligence, which often reflects loose thinking about human cognitive capacities," the researchers wrote.

As a result, scientists have built AI capable of beating humans at chess but have struggled to program the basic cognitive and motor skills of a toddler.


The new paper calls for a more comprehensive commitment to the development of artificial intelligence -- some combination of traditional AI and physical AI.

"The development of robot 'bodies' has significantly lagged behind the development of robot 'brains,'" study co-author Mirko Kovac said in a news release.

"Unlike digital AI, which has been intensively explored in the last few decades, breathing physical intelligence into them has remained comparatively unexplored," said Kovac, a professor of material science and technology at Imperial College London.

In the new paper, Kovac and his research partners argue that a lack of specialized education is at least partially responsible for the dearth of advances in physical AI.

To rectify the problem, the authors recommend the next generation of roboticists be trained in materials science, mechanical engineering, computer science, biology and chemistry.

"The notion of AI is often confined to computers, smartphones and data intensive computation," Kovac said. "We are proposing to think of AI in a broader sense and co-develop physical morphologies, learning systems, embedded sensors, fluid logic and integrated actuation."

"This physical AI is the new frontier in robotics research and will have major impact in the decades to come, and co-evolving students' skills in an integrative and multidisciplinary way could unlock some key ideas for students and researchers alike," he said.


The authors of the new paper predict the next generation smart robots will be designed and built using unconventional materials and innovative construction techniques. Their construction, researchers contend, will require cross-disciplinary collaborations among scientists and engineers.

To properly educate the next generation of roboticists, researchers recommend communities and institutions begin hiring and training staff who can and will prioritize multidisciplinary Physical AI research.

"Such backing is especially needed as working in the multidisciplinary playground requires daring to leave the comfort zones of narrow disciplinary knowledge for the sake of a high-risk research and career uncertainty," said co-author Aslan Miriyev.

"Creating lifelike robots has thus far been an impossible task, but it could be made possible by including physical AI in the higher education system. Developing skills and research in physical AI could bring us closer than ever to redefining human-robot and robot-environment interaction," said Miriyev, a researcher in the department of aeronautics at Imperial.

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