This is how robots are taught to behave with education

A subject that throws a paper on the floor, another that pushes you to keep that free seat in the subway, a third party who plays the cell phone in the movies … If some humans do not often show too many manners, how can we show them to robots? Can you create a polite and polite machine, but less pedantic than C-3PO ?

There are already a few researchers working so that, in the future, robots learn to be educated in any situation. Not only will they clean our homes, but they will also be our virtual butlers, our chauffeurs or the assistants of our elders, so it seems logical that they should learn certain rules of behavior.

Although we already know that we are not going to have to endure either flatulence nor spit on their part, some have already learned to welcome the guests – Asimo has given a handshake to the Kings in Japan – the automatons still have a lot of protocol to learn.

Walking the streets without taking anyone ahead, knowing in which contexts they should lower their voice or discern what vocabulary is appropriate to use in each situation are just some of the actions in which robots should boast of manners.

DARPA’s strategy for robots to be educated

The concern that robots are educated is not exclusive to the creators of humanoids like Asimo. Also, DARPA, the agency US dedicated to the research of military technology, wants to teach good manners to the most advanced machines. In fact, it has already launched a project to achieve it.

For now, researchers have studied how social norms are activated in humans to develop a machine learning algorithm (machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence), which allows robots to behave with education in situations with They are not familiar.


For example, although there is already a librarian robot, who orders the books, it is not usual to see a machine in a temple of knowledge. So most likely, he doesn’t know that if he receives a very urgent call, he has to silence the phone (if he hadn’t already done so), answer with a whisper at most and leave the room immediately to continue the talk.

This is the kind of situation that DARPA researchers want to teach the machines so that they know how to act correctly because, they argue, some robots lack that kind of social sensitivity. After all, it seems obvious to think that machines are not going to start caring for their manners overnight.

The DARPA project has only created the first framework to transmit certain standards and accelerate the ability of machines to imitate educated humans, but the agency itself has acknowledged that much work remains ahead.

Not surprisingly, mortals themselves learn good manners from our childhood and still have a hard time keeping them in what situations.

Jackrabbot, the automaton that doesn’t push you down the street

Join the roundabout, advance when the signs allow, do not run over the passerby who wants to cross the street … There are also many traffic rules that autonomous cars are learning. Thus, in a few years, they will perform better than us, which should increase safety on our roads.

But if the giants – Google, Tesla, Ford – are busy with driverless vehicles, who are thinking about preventing robots from overwhelming us when they drive on sidewalks or at home? At Stanford University they have commissioned Jackrabbot , a white automaton with wheels, to fulfill that mission.


Dressed in a tie and a straw hat, this machine has moved around the area observing those behaviors that, as good pedestrians, we do every day without realizing it.

Not overwhelming other passersby to go faster, queuing without skipping the line or dodging the pedestrian who comes from the front to avoid the blow instead of stopping are just some of the behaviors that these researchers want to teach other robots.

The endearing Jackrabbot distributes letters or food around the campus, while he learns to meet the traffic rules for pedestrians. Thanks to his robotic eyes, he observes and records all his mistakes so that researchers can develop algorithms that allow other robots to learn those unwritten rules.

Thus, they can walk on public roads, monitor a shopping center or walk through a train station without giving the note and, above all, without hurting any human being put in front of them. Not surprisingly, there are already those who are devising four-wheel delivery robots and even robotic shopping carts and wheels, like Gita.

Robots that defend themselves against insults

In addition to learning how they should behave so as not to be rude by observing humans, machines can also acquire certain knowledge thanks to literature in order to improve their manners.

To do this, two experts from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a system capable of learning social conventions through simple stories. Quixote, the name of that prototype, has learned ethics and social skills. Everything, based on reading.


Other common disrespects among humans are to release profanity or insult the interlocutors. But Cortana, the virtual assistant of Microsoft, is prepared both to not utter obscenities to respond to verbal attacks killing of a cutting shape, but elegant conversation.

However, it should be remembered that those of Redmond also developed a ‘ bot ‘ that learned racist expressions from Twitter users. Therefore, preventing automata from saying offensive expressions, even if we know that they do it without evil – we must not forget that they lack feelings – is also important.

So, if researchers get robots to act in a polite manner, whatever the context, humans will continue to be the only ones who continue without respecting the silence in certain places or push us to catch a train. Will they end up teaching modal robots to us?