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Robot Taught Table Etiquette Can Explain Why It Won't Follow the Rules

By New Scientist

April 26, 2021

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Researchers at Italy's University of Palermo (UP) programmed a humanoid robot from Japanese manufacturer SoftBank Robotics with software that models human cognitive processes, along with a text-to-speech processor, so it could vocalize its decision-making process while completing tasks.

The software enabled the robot, Pepper, to retrieve relevant data from its memory and determine the correct way to respond to human commands.

After encoding etiquette rules into Pepper, the UP scientists asked it to set a dinner table, and either enabled or disabled its inner speech to observe the effects.

When inner speech was disabled, the robot refused to perform tasks that contradicted the programmed rules, but could not explain its reasoning to the researchers.

UP's Arianna Pipitone says hearing a robot voice its decision-making process boosts the transparency between humans and robots, which could have ramifications for cooperative tasks.

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