Berkeley Roboticist Learns Lessons About Humanity from Robots
Tom Spendlove posted on August 15, 2016 |
Ken Goldberg discusses four robotic projects from his career, and looks at the human traits inside t...

Ken Goldberg starts his talk with a big idea: robots can inspire us to be better humans. In his TED Talk 4 lessons from robots about being human, Goldberg examines what happens to humanity as robots become more woven into society. Four different projects are discussed, along with the life lessons that Goldberg has pulled from the robots.

In 1993 Goldberg was exposed to the new world wide web by his students, and then struck with the idea that anyone in the world could use the technology to control the robots in his lab. The telegarden was a robot with a camera attached that could be controlled by remote users to take a tour of a large garden table. Users could help to water the garden, and eventually be given seeds to plant in the garden.












A random question from a student about whether or not the robot was real led Goldberg down a path of philosophical discovery. He coined a new term
telepistemologythe study of knowledge at a distance. This project and the questioning of the project’s reality taught Ken to always question assumptions, both society’s and his own.

The second project discussed was born in the robot garden project and ideas about the robot interacting with people. The team created a tele-actor, a person with wires, cameras and microphones that would act as a robot. The tele-actor would go into remote environments and people watching online could experience what the actor was seeing and hearing, and decide what actions the tele-actor would take. When the online community couldn’t decide what to do the tele-actor would go from gut instinct to act. This taught Goldberg a second lesson: When In Doubt, Improvise.

The third lesson was learned when Goldberg’s father was in the hospital and undergoing chemotherapy. Brachytherapy was also being done at the hospital and Goldberg worked with his students to develop a robot that would target tumors with radiation and avoid the body’s organs. The project taught him the lesson that when your path is blocked, you pivot.

Finally Goldberg discussed the da Vinci surgical robot and giving a surgeon freedom to concentrate on the complicated parts of surgery while automating the non-essential tasks. Taking several human motion captures, dynamic time warping, iterative learning and Kalman filtering, Goldberg was able to teach the movement sequences to a robot that could, over time, work at ten times the speed of a human. This project taught the lesson that there’s no substitute for practice, practice, practice.

Ken Goldberg is a compelling speaker and does a great job of framing his projects and ideas in simple and easily understandable terms. This TED Talk is a few years old but full of incredibly interesting ideas about human-robot interactions.


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