You Lying Weasel

What do you trust more, what you are told or what you actually see?

The 4ft tall security robot points its top-mounted camera at the surface of a workstation.

The Vigilant security robot responds to a secure remote request to relay an image of the desktop.

For most people the answer is simple: you trust your senses. If you look out the window and it is raining, you believe that it is raining regardless of what your spouse, your best friend, or some guy at the weather station tells you.  This is a capability we develop as we mature. As kids we believed what we were told, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, “This won’t hurt.”  We trusted what we were told until we gained more experience, until we learned better.

This ability to trust our senses is critical in the complex, ever-changing, and uncertain environments that we think of as normal.  We have to guess what is around the corner, then react quickly when we see that our guess was wrong. We make plans based our our predictions about the future and have to re-plan when we see what the situation is really like.  This is how we get through the day, get through our lives.

At Gamma 2 Robotics, we build robots. Unlike an industrial robot working away tirelessly in a controlled space in a factory, our robots work alongside people in human environments. To do so they need to trust their senses.  Most robots simply do what they are told to do, they don’t think, they don’t reason, they just follow orders.  And they trust.

Auto assembly line with robots

Auto assembly line with robots

This leads to potential problems. The case of robot welder that ‘trusted’ that the space around it was clear, so it swung it’s heavy arm in an arc, killing Robert Williams in 1979; the first recorded death by robot.

At Gamma 2 value safety, and that means that our robots trust, but in the words of the late president Reagan, our robots “trust, but verify”  So, if you tell one of our robots that the path in front of it is clear, and it can move forward, it will trust, but verify that there are no obstacles in the way, and verify the path dozens of times a second as it moves.

This month we added a significant capability to our robot’s skill set.  It used to be that, if we were in a hurry, we could lie to our robots.  We might be at a location like a conference or a trade show.  And to speed things up, to make it easier for us to demonstrate a capability, we would tell the robot that it was really back in the lab. The robot would trust, and follow our instructions perfectly, even though we were not in the lab at all.  That all changed this month, as we upgraded the artificial intelligence of the robots.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Now the robots look around, they compare their sensory information with the expectations of what they should see, if they were really back at the lab.  And, if it is clear that we did not tell the robot the truth – the robot will not believe us, it will do its best to figure out where it really is, to prevent any unsafe behavior.

The robot will trust, but if it cannot verify – it might say “You told me we were in the lab, but we are not! You lying weasel!”


Where is your robot? Ours are keeping people and property safe!

Learn more at Gamma 2 Robotics or call +1 303 778 7400 for information.


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