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Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

self-service woes

The Economist thinks that there are risks with self-service. I would say that the final remark is exactly the forcing function to bring about more intelligence with automation, "Above all, self-service is no substitute for good service."

There is an omnipresent drive to cut costs on the seller's side, so eliminating an expensive, human-powered service is always desirable. Keeping the customer happy is also a grudging desire. These two come together to yield an effort for computer systems to be more usable and more intelligent.

Replacing the human action is not enough: you need to replace the utility of human-interaction. For example, self-scanning automation is OK in supermarkets, because I don't need to deal with a human when in a hurry, but I am not as skilled as the human at that particular task and don’t have the grocery store domain knowledge. Securely identifying the products I'm buying and my personal accounts would allow me to just walk out of the store. Now human check-out laborers are eliminated AND service is better.

For an example of replacing a human poorly, look towards CMU and my least favorite project here: the roboceptionist. What a waste of time.


Blogger Dean said...

So I don't think the robo-receptionist project is really aimed at replacing humans, but is aimed more at studying human-robot interactions.

Reid and others in charge of the project have said it's an exercise in theater and story-telling. And it is pretty interesting to see what her new story is each week. So Valerie isn't really meant to be useful, per se.

But I have to agree that it's pretty annoying to go up to her to ask for an office number or directions (useful things she does do), and she's "talking" on the phone to a non-existant person. She's having me wait for no reason other than the drama of it!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

The problem with the HRI (human-robot-interaction) experiments with Valerie is that she is a very poor example of a robot. She can't interact physically with her environment, even through movement, let alone manipulation. Her moving gaze is the best attempt, and is quite laggy at best. What kind of useful HRI is being studied if the modes of interaction are nothing like today’s robots, and nothing like tomorrow robots?

Her crowning achievement in software is a very poor scripting method of natural language communication. With the Language Technology Institute right up stairs, I expect much better. [Note that my use of 'her' does not qualify as interesting HRI study :]

Generally speaking, having a robot is better than not. In this case, the opportunity cost is huge. The best technologies haven't been put on display, i.e. our face to the world is covered in zits, and even the easy part, her personality, was botched with an annoying character.

So I will not yield; the robot is the greatest failure in RI if only because it could have been something very, very interesting.

_ _ _

ps. Thanks for posting the virgin comment. Please come back often :)

8:43 PM  

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