February 05, 2019

Tech Talk with mediaX at Stanford University and the MIT Media Lab

Author : OMRON / Publisher: OMRON

We are publishing a series of articles on CES 2019 to share the exciting events that took place at OMRON's booth this year. Today's topic is the Tech Talk with guest speakers from mediaX at Stanford University and the MIT Media Lab at the CES 2019 OMRON Booth, on the topic of harmony between humans and machines today, and in the near-future.

-- Moderator --

Glen Gilmore: A founding faculty member of the Digital Marketing Executive programs at Rutgers University School of Business, teaching emerging tech, brand management, digital marketing, crisis communications and global social media law to members of the Fortune 500. Gilmore is a Forbes Top 20 "Social Media Influencer" also ranked a top influencer in Emerging Tech and Digital Transformation.

-- Panelists --

Deron Jackson: Chief Technical Officer, OMRON Adept Technologies. OMRON Adept Technologies collaborates with OMRON's research segments to design factory automations and robots.

Dr. V. Michael Bove: Head of Object-based Media group, the MIT Media Lab. Dr. Bove researches the ways in which the digital world intersects with the physical world and how the virtual world may be fused with the physical world.

Masaki Suwa: President, Director and CEO of OMRON SINIC X. SINIC X conducts research in collaboration with universities on future technologies and near-future design to provide optimal solutions and architecture that respond to social needs.

Jason Wilmot: Director of Communication and Events, mediaX at Stanford University. mediaX is an affiliate program of the H-STAR Institute extending from the Stanford Graduate School of Education to over two dozen interdisciplinary labs at Stanford, exploring the thoughtful uses of information technology across industries of tomorrow.

Then and now: Human-machine interaction

"The conventional thought," says Jackson, "that people have for factory automation or for robots like we have at the booth is that you have high speed high precision machines that are usually in a cage in some kind of work cell. So, there isn't that direct interaction."

Jackson says that this kind of relationship is starting to change. The new products at OMRON are expected to have human workers standing by and interacting with them.

The key element according to him, is the AI, which amounts to the "+Think" in OMRON's Sensing & Control + Think core technology.

377_02.jpgDeron Jackson of OMRON Adept Technologies

Suwa, similarly, comments that he does not expect robots to replace humans but that the two will coexist:

"For me, it's hard to imagine all the cars becoming autonomous ones. For example, in the urban district, such as in Tokyo. In that case, the interaction between driver and car, the machines, is very important. Harmonization is indispensable and [sharing] of tasks is essential."

Conversational relationship as key to harmony

For robots that work in close proximity with people, interaction is key for safety and smooth collaboration. According to Wilmot, the basis of this is a "conversational relationship".

"It starts with keeping the human involved. The human is going to be the one that's going to need to write the conversations that you're going to interact with, if you're going to want to interact with and form a relationship with that technology, whether that's a robot, that's AI, or machine learning."

He stresses the importance of the human in creating dialogues that match the context: "Dialogues for the U.S. might be different from those for Japan.

"Keeping all these human elements in the conversations will help build trust, which of course is a huge issue with technology."

377_03.jpgJason Wilmot of mediaX at Stanford University

"Trust is extremely important," agrees Dr. Bove, "when we work with things like robotic devices, in the past, we had a programming process. Programmers would get together and program a device to have a set of behaviors.

"We are now moving into - and OMRON has clearly demonstrated this- to a world in which it's more like an apprenticeship."

Dr. Bove explains that robots are starting to be expected to learn from members rather than having a prescribed set of commands.

"If you think about driving your car to a four-way stop at an intersection, you can make eye contact with another driver and understand that the driver has seen you. There's some social signaling."

Suwa echoes the same notion, that humans and machines must be able to act within "the framework of predictable unpredictability" - even if each situation is different (unpredictable), humans and machines are expected to act according to a certain set of codes, such as social cues (predictable).

377_04.jpgDr. V. Michael Bove of the MIT Media Lab

377_05.jpgMasaki Suwa of OMRON SINIC X

Making a step towards the near-future

Suwa and Jackson explain that the next step will be to have robots start programming themselves and learn autonomously.

"Today, programming is writing lines of code almost like people are telling machines to move. If that relationship becomes something, like Michael has described, a training exercise, then that cue and interaction is actually what makes it easier to train."

Dr. Bove adds that "emotional intelligence" is key for this training.

"We expect other people, and even other things that are alive, like dogs and cats, to exhibit emotional intelligence. So, if we are clearly frustrated and we change our tone of voice and our facial expression, we expect that these, other people, will pick up on that. I think we are at a point where the technology permits things like industrial robots and household devices to pick up our social cues as well, and we would like them to exhibit that sort of emotional intelligence and to respond to that."

Designing a future of harmony between humans and machines requires reflection on the human context and human thinking. Designs based on these concepts will allow humans to trust machines and collaborate, teach, and learn from them.
OMRON's journey to achieve the harmony between humans and machines will continue.