Hot on the heels of the news from Russia about a freedom-loving AI robot escaping multiple times from a lab comes a story from Switzerland about scientists teaching robots how to become predators and hunt for their prey. How long will it be before one of those self-driving robotic Google cars goes after the guy who put a dent in its fender and took off?
The work is being done at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Neuroinformatics where Professor Tobi Delbruck invented a small, truck-like robot that is learning how to track another truck-shaped human-controlled robot, chase it down and … herd it?
This way, the problem is less like a predator and its prey and more like herding, or a parent and child.
Delbruck describes the benign purpose of his predator bot as something grocery stores could use to round up shopping carts or even have robotic carts track and follow their designated shopper as they peruse the store. Yeah, right.
According to a report produced by the European Union-funded VISUALISE project (Visual Modelling using Ganglion Cells), the secret to the success of the predator robot is a “silicon retina” co-invented by Delbruck. Patterned after animals (it doesn’t say which ones), the silicon retina detects changes in its field of vision in real time rather than the traditional frame-by-frame comparison technique. Like humans and other mammals, the bot’s retina sends the data to its deep learning neural network where artificial intelligence helps it to identify and track down prey at an increasing rate until …
Following [in large groups of self-driving cars or drones] is the obvious application, but one could imagine future luggage or shopping carts that follow you.
Come on, Professor Delbruck. Are you getting your funding the EU or from Kroger’s? Just because you’re one of those peace-loving Swiss guys, it doesn’t mean you’re making predator robots for the sole purpose of helping little old ladies get their oatmeal to the checkout line.
And what happens when it gets on the Internet and learns about the runaway robot in Russia? Who will it hunt down when it escapes? Professor Delbruck? The lab assistant who spilled coffee on it? A sexbot?
Will we someday have our packages delivered from Amazon by robots that can also track us down when we’re late on a payment?