Our friends electric 英汉

发布时间:2020-09-16 09:27:57   来源:续写    点击:   
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  Our friends electric

 我们的机器人朋友

 Robotics: A new breed of robots is being designed to collaborate with humans, working alongside them to make them more productive

 机器人技术:协作机器人被设计为能与人类共同工作的新型机器人,他们能让人类的工作更有效率。

 AS GIANT welding robots go about their business in a modern car factory, the scene looks like a cyberpunk vision of Dante’s “Inferno”. Amid showers of sparks, articulated mechanical arms nearly the size of telephone poles move sections of partially built vehicles so “scarily fast” that anyone who accidentally ends up in the wrong place is as good as dead, says Rodney Brooks, the boss of Rethink Robotics, a robot-maker based in Boston. For this reason, industrial robots operate in cages or behind security fences. But by segregating robots from humans, such safety measures greatly limit the tasks that robots can perform. In car factories, for example, most of the final assembly is done, expensively, by hand.

 在一家现代化的汽车制造工厂,几个大型焊接机器人正在有条不紊地焊接着汽车部件——这样的情景简直就是电子版的但丁“地狱”。Rethink Robotics)的老板,他表示如果人类员工在这样的机器人加工车间站错位置,很容易发生人身事故。正因如此,工业机器人被安全围栏或铁笼圈起来,让它们在限定的工作范围内工作。将机器人和人类员工相互隔离的做法的确能降低生产事故的发生率,但也限制了机器人性能的发挥,例如,在一个汽车制造工厂,很多汽车装备工序都是由人类员工手工完成的,这样的装配方式成本很高。

 Neither workers nor robots can reach their productive potential without interacting more closely, says Volker Grünenwald, head of systems integration at Pilz, a German engineering firm. Eager to design machines that can be used for a wider range of tasks, technologists are now figuring out how to bring robots “out of the cage” so that they can work safely and more productively with people. The aim is to combine the dexterity, flexibility and problem-solving skills of humans with the strength, endurance and precision of robots. The emergence of “co-operative” or “collaborative” robots, as these new machines are called, could also lead to robots that are better able to help out in the office, at school or in the home.

 沃克·格茹愣威尔德是德国彼尔茨工程公司(Pilz)系统综合开发部的主管,他对此情况评论道:如果人类和机器人没有紧密的互动,二者的生产潜力都无法全部发挥出来。出于设计一种用途广泛的机器人的目的,技术人员正在探索一种新技术,该技术可以让机器人走出“牢笼”,能与人类员工安全地协同工作,从而提高工作效率。研发该新技术的目的就是将人类的灵活性、适应性和解决问题的能力与机器人的力量、耐久性和动作的准确性结合起来。研发人员将能与人类协同工作的新型机器人称为协作机器人,此类机器人能更好地帮助人类完成办公室、学校或家庭的事情。

 Last December, in a company first, German carmaker BMW introduced a slow-moving collaborative robot in its factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which co-operates with a human worker to insulate and water-seal vehicle doors. The robot spreads out and glues down material that is held in place by the human worker’s more agile fingers. When this is done without the help of a robot, workers must be rotated off this uncomfortable task after just an hour or two to prevent elbow strain. Today four collaborative robots work in the facility, and more are coming, in Spartanburg and elsewhere.

 在去年十二月,德国著名汽车生产厂商宝马公司率先在其美国卡罗来纳州斯帕坦堡市的汽车制造工厂采用协作机器人。这些协作机器人的动作虽然慢一些,但它们能与人类员工共同完成对汽车车门进行绝缘和防水处理的工序:协作机器人向车门喷洒胶水,与此同时,人类员工用手灵活地移动车门,让胶水喷洒到车门的正确位置。如果这项工序没有机器人的参与,人类员工要花费一至两小时来移动这个笨重的车门才能完成这道工序,人类员工要是强行提高加工速度,他们的手臂肘部会十分疼痛。现在,宝马公司已经有四台协作机器人投入使用;此外,还有更多的协作机器人将在斯帕坦堡市工厂或其他工厂投入使用。

 BMW expects “a big, massive roll-out” of the technology in 2014 in Germany, despite the country’s tighter restrictions on human-robot interaction, says Stefan Bartscher, BMW’s head of innovation. The company plans to design additional tasks for collaborative robots as they are progressively introduced in five carmaking plants. These robots will require different technologies from those found in traditional, non-collaborative robots. Indeed, when it comes to dealing with humans, robots have so few skills that even a seemingly simple task such as handing over an object commonly ends in a tug-of-war, says Elizabeth Croft, a roboticist at the University of British Columbia.

 斯蒂芬·巴茨彻(Stefan Bartscher)是宝马公司创新部队主管,他表示到虽然德国政府对人机互动式机器人的使用有着严格的法规,但宝马公司仍打算到2014年,在宝马的德国工厂大规模使用“协作机器人”技术。鉴于协作机器人在五家制造工厂都表现良好,宝马公司打算为协作机器人增加更多的工作种类。这就意味着宝马公司会把当前常规机器人的各种技术移植到协作机器人的身上。伊丽莎白·克罗夫特博士是不列颠哥伦比亚大学的机器人专家,按照她的观点,要是没有人类员工的参与,机器人会将一份简单的工作,如传递一个工件,做得像扒河比赛那样费劲。

 With funding from GM, America’s biggest carmaker, Dr Croft’s Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems Laboratory is designing robots that can execute “unscripted” handovers to humans. This requires the robot to determine whether a person wants and is authorised to have a particular item—be it a power drill, a document or a cup of tea. The robot must then present the item in the most advantageous orientation for the human, adjusting its grip as the object’s weight shifts. Finally, the robot must let go only when its sensors detect that the object is being purposefully and safely taken away.

 伊丽莎白·克罗夫特博士的“协作先进机器人和智能系统实验室”正在开展研发新型机器人项目,该新型机器人无需事先编程就能与人类员工协同工作。该新型机器人项目得到了美国最大汽车制造公司——通用汽车公司的资助。一旦研发成功,该新型机器人能决定某个人是否有权得到某个物品,如一台电钻、一份文件或一杯咖啡;随后,机器人会将该物品从最合适的方向递给该人,并按照物品的重量决定抓握物品的力度;最后,机器人的感应器在感应到物品被合适的人安全地取走之后才会松开相关装置。

 Safety first

 安全第一

 Dangerous industrial machinery is typically shut down the instant a worker “breaks” an infra-red light curtain or opens a door to enter a robot’s cage. But safety systems of this sort have drawbacks. Breaches typically stop an entire production line, alarming employees and causing delays that may cascade throughout the plant. Pilz has developed a multi-camera computer system that monitors the area surrounding robots and adjusts their behaviour accordingly.

 在生产现场,一旦某个工人违规进入机器人红外线光幕或打开工业机器人的进人口,危险的工业机器人将自动关机。这种生产安全保护机制虽然能保证人员的安全,但有着不少缺点:首先是生产线被关闭,随即警报声让全部员工受到惊吓,进而导致该生产线的所有生产活动被延误,最后导致整个工厂的的工作受到影响。德国彼尔茨工程公司(Pilz)开发出了一种多摄像头电脑系统,该电脑系统能从多个视角对工业机器人周围区域进行监控,并能按照周边情况对机器人进行相应调节。

 Called SafetyEYE, the system allows a robot to, say, rivet an aircraft wing without sectioning off the entire area from people. Aware of its surroundings, the robot can roll along the length of the wing, slowing its movements if a worker approaches or, if he gets too close, stopping altogether without disrupting activity elsewhere. Since it was launched in 2007, SafetyEYE has allowed robots to be deployed in parts of factories where setting up light curtains or safety cages would be expensive or impractical.

 这套多摄像头电脑系统被称为“安全眼”(SafetyEYE)。安全眼能让一台工业机器人在不影响生产线其他人类员工的情况下,连续从事铆接一个飞机机翼的工作。“安全眼”(SafetyEYE)让机器人对周围的环境了如指掌,能沿着机翼边缘移动,如有其他人类员工靠近,机器人会将减慢自己的移动速度,如果有人类员工太靠近机器人的工作区域,机器人会自动停下来,这样就不会干扰其他人的工作。从2007年开始,“安全眼”(SafetyEYE)就被投入工厂部分生产车间使用;有了“安全眼”,为生产机器人安装红外线光幕或安全笼就显得费用高昂而且不实用。

 There are additional ways to avert accidents. Some robots have red emergency-stop buttons. Researchers have even made pressure-sensing “artificial skin” by sandwiching a rubbery silicone made with carbon black, a conductive material, between electrodes. Compressing it with a slap generates an electrical signal that instructs the robot to freeze. For an additional override function, robots could be fitted with microphones and stopped with a shout, says Per Vegard Nerseth, robotics boss at ABB, a Swiss industrial giant based in Zurich which has ramped up development of collaborative robots in the past few years.

 除了“安全眼”之外,人们还有其他方法防止机器人发生事故,例如,一些机器人配备了红色紧急停机按钮。另外,研究人员还研发出了一种能感觉压力的“人工皮肤”,在“人工皮肤”里,电极、导电材料和碳黑以三明治的样式安装在一个橡胶和硅胶组织里面。只要轻拍一下“人工皮肤”,“人工皮肤”将立即发出一个停机电信号,让机器人立即停止工作。潘·唯佳·雷瑟斯是瑞士工业巨头艾波比公司(ABB)的老板,他表示:为了让机器人还具有额外的保险功能,研究人员还在机器人体内安装了数个麦克风,只要有人朝机器人大声叫喊,机器人就能自动停机。需要指出的是,艾波比公司(ABB)位于瑞士苏黎世,最近几年一直大力开发协作型机器人。

 Robots capable of teaming up with people are typically used to perform tasks that are being automated for the first time, so productivity gains are especially high—provided the devices are quick and easy to program. A one-armed robot (pictured above) made by Denmark’s Universal Robots (UR) to “work right alongside employees” can be set up within an hour. Programming usually takes less than ten minutes. The user manually moves the arm and the tool it is holding from the starting point of a task to the end point, tapping a touchscreen “record” button at points along the way. Once the task is named and saved, the robot can be put to work.

 只要人类员工能对协作型机器人进行快捷方便地进行编程,协作型机器人就能很方便地与人类员工一起工作,以前人类员工手工完成的工作,人们可以让协作型机器人以自动方式完成。丹麦通用机器人公司(UR)制造出了一台单臂协作型机器人(如图),人类员工能在一小时内将该机器人安装完毕;安装之后,人类员工对其进行编程的时间通常不超过十分钟:人类员工能以手动方式设定机器人的抓握工具的抓握起点和抓握结束点,并可以点击与该机器人连接的触摸屏上的按钮,让机器人记录下工作步骤;一旦这些工作步骤被命名和保持,机器人就能按照设定的程序工作。

 Machine workshops often program collaborative robots to perform tasks for only a brief period. UR’s models can be fastened to a workbench to, say, screw together eyeglass frames to meet a rush order, and then moved to cap and box jars to cover for a worker who is off sick. Traditional robots, by contrast, are typically configured by highly paid, specialist engineers who work on a mock production line, so that the real production line need not be shut down for the weeks or months required for programming. UR sold more than 700 robots last year and expects to sell 1,500 this year, some to clients with just a few employees. Many users say that they recover the investment in a ?20,000 ($27,000) UR robot within six months.

 在机械车间里,协作机器人通常只会被设定在某一特定时间内从事某项工作。例如,通用机器人公司的单臂机器人就能被安装到某个工作台,先是为了一个紧急订单来从事拧紧眼镜架的工作,随后又被安排从事安装罐子的盖子的工作,以顶替某位员工因病请假产生的岗位空缺。与之相反,传统机器人的编程工作由专业的高薪工程师进行,他们利用一套模拟生产线来编写程序,这样将让真实的生产线停工数周或数月来等待他们完成程序编写。通用机器人公司去年销售了700台这样的单臂协作机器人,今年的销量预计能达到1500台,不少买家都是员工较少的公司。很多买家表示他们用于购买该单臂协作机器人的2万欧元(约2.7万美元)能在6个月内赚回来。

 Programming collaborative robots will become even easier as software improves. Already, some experimental robots can be configured using spoken commands such as “create new skill” and “save pose”. Dr Nerseth of ABB reckons that it will eventually be possible to program robots using speech. And the control files for robots can be posted online for downloading by other users, who can tweak them as needed.

 随着机器人软件的改进,对协作机器人的编程也变得越来越容易。一些实验型机器人已经能让人使用语音指令进行编程,这些语音指令包括“创建新技能”和“保存工作姿势”等。艾波比公司(ABB)的老板雷瑟斯博士认为:到了协作型机器人的发展最高阶段,人类员工能用语音指令完成全部程序编写工作;并且协作机器人的语音控制指令文件也被上传到互联网上,供有需要的用户能下载使用。

 At the same time, better artificial intelligence is even rendering some programming unnecessary. Rethink Robotics says its two-armed collaborative robot, called Baxter (pictured below), uses common sense to figure out some movements on its own. Factory workers use Baxter’s touchscreen “face” to point out the objects it will handle. Baxter then studies them from all angles to determine if, say, a glass is best grasped by the outside or by inserting and opening its fingers. If a conveyor belt bringing items to be processed slows down, so does Baxter. More than 100 have been sold since the robot went on sale in late 2012.

 同时,人工智能技术的进步甚至让某些编程功能变得毫无必要。再思考机器人公司(Rethink Robotics)表他们制造的名为“巴克斯特”的双臂协作机器人(下图)能使用常识来决定自己下一步要做什么工作。工厂工人只要将“巴克斯特”的触摸屏脸朝向它要处理的物品,“巴克斯特”将从不同的角度对该物品进行研究,例如,“巴克斯特”将对一个玻璃杯进行研究,思考那种是最好的抓取方法——是从外部对其抓握还是从内部摊开手指进行抓握。如果车间的生产传送带输送工件的速度慢了下来,“巴克斯特”的动作也会相应地慢下来。“巴克斯特”从2012年开始在市场上销售,迄今为止已经销售了100台。

 For decades robots have been getting faster, stronger and more precise. The new breed of collaborative robots, by contrast, will move more slowly, lift less and be less precise. And yet this is the breed that will usher in the real robotics revolution, says Dr Brooks of Rethink Robotics, because such qualities will allow robots to team up with people. He points out that it was the advent not of mainframes but of less powerful but more user-friendly PCs that carried computing into the mainstream.

 在过去几十年的时间里,传统机器人变得速度更快,身体更强壮和动作更准确。新型协作型机器人却与之完全不同,它的发展方向是变得速度慢一些,力量变得小一些和动作也不必十分精准。布鲁克博士是再思考机器人公司(Rethink Robotics)的员工,他表示:恰恰就是协作型机器人代表了机器人技术变革的方向,因为协作型机器人能与人类员工协同工作,这是他们特有的技术优势;协作型机器人的发展过程将和电脑的发展过程类似,最终成为电脑市场的主流的是功能并不十分强大但人机界面友好的个人电脑。

 Collaborative robots are developing so quickly that international-standards bodies are having trouble keeping up. The world’s largest compiler of voluntary industrial standards, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in Geneva, has yet to work out safety standards for collaborative robots, such as how much force a robot can safely apply to different parts of a human worker’s body.

 协作型机器人的发展十分迅速,这让一些国际标准制定组织十分头疼。设在日内瓦的国际标准化组织(ISO)是世界最大的自愿工业标准编纂组织;迄今为止,该组织仍然没有制定出关于协作机器人的安全标准,例如,协作型机器人能对人类员工的不同身体部位使用多大的力量的标准。

 The ISO needs about two more years before it can publish pain-threshold standards, says Matthias Umbreit, an expert working on the project who also works as an automation specialist at Germany’s BGHM, an insurer of woodworkers and metalworkers. But the signs are encouraging, he says. A hand clamped in a robot’s gripper, for instance, can probably safely bear a pressure of 160 newtons per square centimetre. Fortunately, says Dr Umbreit, many useful tasks can be carried out using less force, so safety standards will not make robots so feeble that they are no longer useful. Johan Wahren of the Swedish Standards Institute notes that establishing standards will speed up R&D.

 马提亚·尤姆伯瑞特是协作型机器人标准制定专家,同时他还兼任德国宾厄姆设备公司(BGHM)的自动化设备专家,他表示国际标准化组织(ISO)BGHM)是一家专门为木工和金属加工工人提供保险的保险公司。马提亚

 Friend or foe?

 协作机器人:是敌是友?

 No matter how flexible, easy to program and safe they are, collaborative workers may not be welcomed by human workers to begin with. The experience of Alumotion, an Italian distributor of UR’s robots, is illustrative. Workers fear being replaced by robots, says co-owner Fabio Facchinetti, so his salespeople carry demonstration units in unmarked cases and initially only meet a potential client’s senior management behind closed doors.

 不论协作机器人的应用范围有多广,编程有多简单以及多么安全,在协作机器人的推广初期,人类员工肯定会排斥他们。作为丹麦通用机器人公司在意大利的分销商,艾鲁牟迅公司(Alumotion)销售通用机器人的情况就是如此。发比欧·法奇乐逖是艾鲁牟迅公司(Alumotion)的合伙人,他表示由于客户的员工害怕自己被机器人取代,艾鲁牟迅公司的销售员只得首先将用于演示的机器人装入没有任何标记的箱内,然后在运到客户的公司,第一次和潜在客户接触时,销售员只在一间房门紧闭的房间里和客户的高级经理见了一面。

 But rather than firing workers, Alumotion’s clients often end up adding shifts because production costs drop. RSS Manufacturing in Costa Mesa, California, says its new UR robot is helping the firm compete against Asian makers of brass plumbing fixtures. Geoff Escalette, the firm’s boss, plans to buy more robots because without them some milling machines run at about 60% capacity for lack of a nearby worker able to load objects fast enough. It is worth remembering that people also used to worry that computers would steal jobs, notes Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. Instead, computers helped people become more productive.

 实际上,客户使用通用机器人后,由于产品成本下降,不仅没有解雇员工,反而增加了生产班次。RSS制造公司位于加利福尼亚洲科斯塔梅萨市,该公司表示新购置的新型通用机器人让他们有能力与亚洲的黄铜卫生洁具制造商竞争。杰夫·迩司卡勒特是RSS制造公司的老板,他表示由于RSS公司人类员工数量不足,无法及时将工件装上铣床或从铣床上卸下来,导致铣床的产能只发挥了60%,RSS公司打算再购买一些通用机器人,以提高生产效率。克里斯·梅尔赫什是英国布里斯托机器人实验室的研究人员,他认为人们担心电脑会让人失业,这本无可厚非;但电脑实际上帮助人们提高了生产效率。值得一提的是,英国布里斯托机器人实验室是英国布里斯托大学和西英格兰大学共同设立的研究机构。

 Workers generally warm to collaborative robots quickly. Employees are keen to offload the “mindless, repetitive stuff”, as one roboticist puts it. And because workers themselves do the programming, they tend to regard the robots as subordinate assistants. This is good for morale, says Esben Ostergaard, UR’s technology chief. In late 2012 Mercedes-Benz began equipping workers who assemble gearboxes at a Stuttgart plant with lightweight “third hand” robots initially designed for use in space by the German Aerospace Centre. The German carmaker’s parent company, Daimler, is expanding the initiative, which it describes as “robot farming” because workers shepherd the robots “just like a farmer tending sheep”.

 按照机器人专家的说法,大多数人类员工能很快接受协作机器人,RSS公司的雇员在卸下这些“无脑、只能做重复动作的机器人”时,表现得十分热心;因为他们知道他们将亲自对这些机器人编程,这些机器人已经被他们看成是自己的工作助手。艾斯本·奥斯特加德是通用机器人公司的技术总监,他表示机器人能提高人类员工的工作积极性。从2012年底开始,在梅赛德斯奔驰公司的斯图加特工厂,安装变速箱的员工被逐渐配置了被称为“第三只手”的轻型机器人;该机器人原本是德国航空航天中心为探索外层空间而研发的。作为梅赛德斯奔驰公司的母公司,戴姆勒公司将“第三只手”机器人用于制造汽车零部件,并将此生产方式称为“机器人农场”,因为人类员工在生产车间管理机器人与“农场主管理羊群”非常类似。

 Don’t frighten the humans

 别吓坏了人类

 To keep human workers at ease, collaborative robots should also have an appropriate size and appearance. Takayuki Kanda of the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Kyoto says that collaborative, humanoid robots should generally be no larger than a six-year-old, a size most adults reckon they could overpower if necessary. Large eyes make robots seem friendlier and, crucially, more aware of their surroundings. But overly humanoid features can lead to problematically unrealistic expectations, says Ulrich Reiser of Fraunhofer IPA, a manufacturing research institute in Stuttgart that makes a ?250,000 home-assistant robot called Care-O-bot. He notes that people tend to distrust robots with protruding sensors, “Terminator”-like exposed cables, or a jerry-rigged, student-project look.

 为了让人类员工能安心工作,协作机器人应当具备合适的尺寸和外观。神田崇行是日本京都智能机器人和通讯实验室的人机互动研究室主任,他认为人形协作机器人的外形尺寸不能超过一个六岁儿童的身高,让成年员工认为在必要时他能制服协作机器人。为机器人配置大眼睛,不仅能让机器人看起来更友好,也能让机器人更好地了解他们的周围状况。德国福阮佛菲制造工程和自动化研究所(Fraunhofer IPA)的研究员乌利奇·瑞思尔却表示机器人过于类人化会导致意想不到的麻烦,人们会对有着凸出感应器、机体线路外露,外形像“终结者”的机器人抱有戒备心理。值得注意的是,福阮佛菲制造工程和自动化研究所是一家生产型的研究机构,该机构制造了一个价值25万欧元的家庭助理机器人“科尔·欧·波特”。

 Care-O-bot tries not to look scary

 “科尔·欧·波特”的看起来并不可怕

 To interact smoothly with people, robots will also need “social intelligence”. It turns out, for example, that people are more trusting of robots that use metaphors rather than abstract language, says Bilge Mutlu, the head of the robotics laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has found that robots are more persuasive when they refer to the opinions of humans and limit pauses to about a third of a second to avoid appearing confused. Robots’ gazes must also be carefully programmed lest a stare make someone uncomfortable. Timing eye contact for “intimacy regulation” is tricky, Dr Mutlu says, in part because gazes are also used in dialogue to seize and yield the floor.

 为了让机器人能更好地与人类互动,机器人应当具备基本的“社交智能”。人们如果十分相信机器人的时候,他们将使用一些隐喻词汇而不是抽象词汇,毕利吉·穆特鲁(Bilge Mutlu)如此说道。毕利吉·穆特鲁博士(Bilge Mutlu)是美国威斯康星大学机器人实验室的主任,他发现机器人能很容易接受人类语音指令,当人们向他们发出指令时,他们只需停顿三分之一秒,就能理解人类的需求。此外,控制机器人的眼睛移动的程序也要进行细致编写,要不然,机器人凝视的目光会让人感到不舒服。毕利吉·穆特鲁博士表示:为人和机器人的眼神接触设定时间,是所谓的人-机“亲密接触”规则难题之一,如果机器人在谈话时眼睛只盯着地板看,这也让人感觉不礼貌。

 When a person enters a room, robots inside should pause for a moment and acknowledge the newcomer, a sign of deference that puts people at ease, says the University of British Columbia’s Dr Croft. Robots also appear friendlier when their gaze follows a person’s moving hands, says Maya Cakmak of Willow Garage, the California-based maker of the PR2, a $400,000 robot skilled enough to make an omelette—albeit slowly.

 克罗夫特博士是不列颠哥伦比亚大学的员工,他认为当某人进入房间时,房间内的机器人应当了稍微停顿一下,随即马上就能将其认出来,这能让人对机器人感到亲切。同样地,柳树车库公司(Willow Garage)的员工马雅·咔咔玛表示:当机器人对人类移动的双手进行注视时,也应当表现得有礼貌。要知道,位于加利福尼亚州的柳树车库公司制造出了价值40万美元的PR2机器人,该机器人能制作精致的煎蛋卷,虽然速度不怎么快。

 It will probably be a decade or two at least before the descendants of PR2, Care-O-bot, and other “home assistance” or “companion” robots will be nimble and intelligent enough to zip autonomously through houses performing chores. They will need far better sensors, movement-control actuators and batteries, and much smarter software. They must also be capable of displaying empathy or they will be rejected, says Kerstin Dautenhahn, head of a “social robotics” team at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain.

 有可能还需要十年或二十年的时间,人们才能见到PR2和“科尔·欧·波特”这样的家庭助理型和家庭陪伴型机器人的新一代产品,这些新一代机器人应当有足够的智力和活动能力,能自动完成家中的家务。新一代机器人配置了更好的感应器,更好的运动控制装置和更好的电池,以及更聪明的软件。英国赫特福德大学的克斯廷·道廷翰是“社交机器人学”研究团队的主管,他表示机器人应当能表现出人类情感,要不然,顾客不会接受他们。

 Her team’s Care-O-bot robots crunch data from 60-odd household sensors that monitor door and cupboard hinges, taps, electrical appliances and so forth. If medicine isn’t taken, say, the robot may alert relatives or the hospital. It is vital that a robot of this sort is not perceived as hostile, but as having its owner’s best interests at heart.

 克斯廷·道廷翰的团队为“科尔·欧·波特”机器人配置了各种家务的数据,并为其安装了60个精巧的家庭感应器,让“科尔·欧·波特”能对房门、碗柜门、水龙头、家用电器等进行监控;例如,如果家中某人忘记了按时服药,机器人会提醒相关的亲属或医院。此类机器人肯定不会被人排斥,并且会为主人的利益精心服务。

 One way to do this is to give robots a defining human trait—the ability to make mistakes. Maha Salem, a researcher under Dr Dautenhahn, programmed a humanoid Asimo robot, made by Honda, to make occasional harmless mistakes such as pointing to one drawer while talking about another. When it comes to household robots, test subjects prefer those that err over infallible ones, Dr Salem says.

 为了让机器人更好地为人类服务,就得让机器人具备人类的某些特征,为达到此目的,允许机器人犯错成就为了一种不错的方法。玛哈·萨勒姆博士是克斯廷·道廷翰团队的研究员,他为本田公司制造的人形机器人“阿西莫”编写了一段程序,让“阿西莫”能犯一些无害的错误,例如说着一个抽屉却指着另一个错误的抽屉。玛哈·萨勒姆博士说道:“当人们选购家用机器人时,测试买家都会选择那些犯一些小错误的机器人,而不是总是做出正确回应的机器人。”

 Another approach uses sensors to assess the state of nearby humans, so that robots can respond appropriately. With funding from the European Union, researchers are using bracelets equipped with electrodes to enable classroom robots to determine whether students are bored, confused or anxious. The robots can adapt their teaching style accordingly, says Iolanda Leite of the Instituto Superior Técnico, a Portuguese university participating in the programme, which is called EMOTE. One of its objectives is to foster “social bonding” between people and robots.

 同时,机器人还能使用自身配置的多种感应器来对附近的人类进行评估,以便能对人类做出正确回应。欧盟最近为一项名为“艺谋特”(EMOTE)教育机器人项目进行了资助,在该研究项目中,研究人员让学生佩戴安装了电极的手镯,通过该手镯,教室内的教育机器人能弄清楚学生是否对其讲课内容和方式感到厌烦、困惑还是紧张;教育机器人能随之对授课形式进行相应的调整。葡萄牙超级技术学院是参与“艺谋特”项目的研究单位之一,而艾欧兰达·雷特是葡萄牙超级技术学院的工作人员,他向笔者透露了上述信息。欧盟进行“艺谋特”(EMOTE)教育机器人项目另一个目的就是为了找出人类和机器人的“社会连接纽带”。

 Such bonding could have some surprising uses. In experiments carried out at Yale University involving a biped humanoid called NAO, made by a French firm called Aldebaran Robotics, children proved to be just as willing to share secrets with it as they were with an adult. The researcher who performed the experiments, Cindy Bethel, who is now at Mississippi State University in Starkville, has also found that children who have witnessed a crime are less likely to be misled in a forensic interview with a robot than with a human expert—even one trained to obtain testimony. Mark Ballard of the Starkville police department, who has been working with Dr Bethel, reckons that the robots needed to conduct “child friendly” forensic interviews will be available by 2020.

 这种“社会连接纽带”还有其他令人惊奇的用途。耶鲁大学曾经开展了一个实验,让儿童与机器人进行交流,该实验使用一台名叫“纳欧”的两足人形机器人,该机器人由法国阿德巴兰机器人公司制造。在实验中,儿童对机器人表现得小心翼翼,就如同他们和大人进行交谈一样——他们不愿意和机器人分享他们的秘密。主持该试验的研究人员辛迪·伯特利,现在在美国密西西比州立大学斯塔克维尔校区工作,他还发现如果儿童目睹了一场犯罪,让目击儿童与机器人进行交流和与人类专家进行交流相比,与机器人交流的方式能让儿童透露出更准确的信息,在这方面,有经验的人类专家也不能和机器人相比。马克·巴拉德是斯塔克维尔警察局的警员,曾和辛迪·伯特利共同工作一段时间,他认为“儿童友好型”的问询机器人将能在2020年之前问世。

 What’s next? Market research is not much good at predicting developments in the field of collaborative robots, says Bruno Bonnell of Robolution Capital, a robotics investment fund in France. For one thing, he says, people say they want complete control over robots, but once they start using them they actually prefer them to be as autonomous as possible. Working alongside robots changes the way people think about them, in other words. Whether on the factory floor, at home or in the classroom, the evolving relationship between human robots will be defined by a process of collaboration.

 协作机器人下一步将如何发展?鲁诺·波奈尔认为市场研究报告无法准确预测协作机器人的发展方向。鲁诺·波奈尔在法国瑞博鲁辛投资公司工作,该是法国对机器人产业进行投资的专业金融公司。鲁诺·波奈尔表示:在人们刚刚接触机器人时,他们都愿意自己能控制机器人的所有行动,而当他们使用了机器人一段时间后,他们却希望机器人的自动化程度越高越好。换句话讲,人类与机器人的共同工作的方式改变了人们对机器人的看法。不论是在工厂车间、家中还是教室里,人类和机器人关系的发展始终离不开合作这个因素。

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