SAN FRANCISCO — Until recently, Robyn Ewing was a writer in Hollywood, developing TV scripts and pitching pilots to film studios.

Now she’s applying her creative talents toward building the personality of a different type of character — a virtual assistant, animated by artifical intelligence, that interacts with sick patients.

Ewing works with engineers on the software program, called Sophie, which can be downloaded to a smartphone. The virtual nurse gently reminds users to check their medication, asks them how they are feeling or if they are in pain, and then sends the data to a real doctor.

As tech behemoths and a wave of start-ups double down on virtual assistants that can chat with human beings, writing for AI is becoming a hot job in Silicon Valley. Behind Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not just software engineers. Increasingly, there are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types charged with engineering the personalities for a fast-growing crop of artificial intelligence tools.

“Maybe this will help pay back all the student loans,” joked Ewing, who has master’s degrees from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and film school.

Unlike the fictional characters that Ewing developed in Hollywood, who are put through adventures, personal trials and plot twists, most virtual assistants today are designed to perform largely prosaic tasks, such as reading through email, sending meetings reminders or turning off the lights as you shout across the room.

But a new crop of virtual assistant start-ups, whose products will soon flood the market, have in mind more ambitious bots that can interact seamlessly with human beings.

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The rapid pace of artificial intelligence (AI) has raised fears about whether robots could act unethically or soon choose to harm humans. Some are calling for bans on robotics research; others are calling for more research to understand how AI might be constrained. But how can robots learn ethical behavior if there is no “user manual” for being human?

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Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it’s setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics, underlining the Japanese automaker’s determination to lead in futuristic cars that drive themselves and to apply the technology to other areas of daily life.

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said Friday that the company will start operating in January with 200 employees at a facility near Stanford University. A second facility will be established near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The investment, which will be spread over five years, comes on top of $50 million Toyota announced earlier for artificial intelligence research at Stanford and MIT.

Toyota said its interest extended beyond autonomous driving, which is starting to be offered by some automakers and being promised by almost all of them.

Toyota has already shown an R2-D2-like robot (called the Toyota Partner Robot Family) designed to help the elderly, the sick and people in wheelchairs by picking up and carrying objects. The automaker has also shown human-shaped entertainment robots that can converse and play musical instruments. As the world’s top auto manufacturer, Toyota already uses sophisticated robotic arms and computers in auto production, including doing paint jobs and screwing in parts.

Read the rest of the article at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-silicon-valley-20151106-story.html

In the future, HUMANS Are Going to be Artificially Intelligent.

That’s the prediction of Ray Kurzweil (website), director of engineering at Google, who spoke Wednesday at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.

Kurzweil predicts that humans will become hybrids in the 2030s. That means our brains will be able to connect directly to the cloud, where there will be thousands of computers, and those computers will augment our existing intelligence. He said the brain will connect via nanobots — tiny robots made from DNA strands.

“Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking,” he said.

The bigger and more complex the cloud, the more advanced our thinking. By the time we get to the late 2030s or the early 2040s, Kurzweil believes our thinking will be predominately non-biological.

Read more at: Money.cnn.com/video/technology/2015/05/28/google-io-2015-keynote-highlights.cnnmoney/

UPDATE: September 2015 — they did it!

robots-teach-merryland-international

Abu Dhabi: Robot Teachers will soon be instructing students in basic math and other subjects at a private school in Abu Dhabi.

Merryland International School in Mussafah has launched what it claims is the first robotic lab in a UAE school, with more than 30 cutting edge robots including humanoids with built-in intelligence.

Humanoid AISOY Raspberry Pi robot will teach basic addition and subtraction while Nao, the 57-cm tall Evolution Humanoid robot from France, will help special needs children.

Nao can walk, talk and even recognise emotions. The programmable robot can also be used to explore research topics in robotics, computer science, human-machine interaction and even social sciences.
Then there is the Genibo Robot Dog which falls asleep if the students are not attentive.

I have sourced out some of the best and most advanced robots including humanoids, quadrupeds, hexapods, flying robots and pet robots from all over the world, Susheela George, Founder of Merryland, told XPRESS.

“Our aim is to mould future scientists, designers, engineers and leaders,” she added.

Susheela claims the school has invested half a million dirhams to set up the robotics lab.

The school will have robotics science as a subject integrated to their Cambridge International curriculum, and delivered through physics, ICT and math classes. Students from grade three to 12 will benefit from the lab.

“The course will start in full swing next year after the teachers have completed their training from Pittsburgh University in the US,” said Susheela.

George Fernandes, Head of Department, Information Communication Technology (ICT) at the school, said the robotics lab is just one of the many things in the pipeline. “We plan to go a long way in making robotics science a subject of study for our students. Children can learn from scratch the science of assembling a robot. At an advanced level, high school students will be taught how to programme robots with built-in intelligence,” said Fernandes.

The robotic lab was formally inaugurated on August 22 by Dr. John Netting, Director General of European Business Assembly (EBA), Oxford and Dr. Martin Moore-Ede and Dr. Donna Martin from Harvard University. The Indian and Pakistani ambassadors to the UAE were also present at the function held at the school’s campus in Mussafah.

NAO: The Next Generation of Robot

NAO Next Gen: Aldebaran Robotics launches a new generation of its humanoid robot

Aldebaran Robotics, the world leader in humanoid robotics, has released its latest version of the NAO robot — NAO Next Gen. The power of NAO Next Gen, the new fully programmable humanoid robot that has the most extensive worldwide use, is opening up new perspectives and fields of application for its users.

Aisoy Robot

Aisoy1 II is the first social robot affordable for everyone. With new capabilities to awake your creative spirit.

Renewed and funny dialogs! Aisoy1 II’s behavior has evolved to a more proactive interaction. It has refined its sense of humor and tries to express it using its own words. It may be able to make you smile, or maybe your own style is a bit different from his. Anyway, please be comprehensive with Aisoy1 II, as he is taking the first steps as a comedian, its answers could surprise you!
More expressive with an evolved emotional engine! The new emotional engine is more proactive and robust. You will be able to understand the current emotional state of your Aisoy1 II much better and act accordingly. Besides, its new emotional engine provides more active behaviors and more independence and autonomy in its actions.
Multi-languages versions are now available.

Aisoy Robot Teacher- Teaching Math

Why robots?

Robots can caputre a child’s imagination like no other tool by creating a fun, physical learning process. “Kids recognise when they are learning something themselves — robots give them that,” says Larry Johnson, CEO, New Media Consortium, a US headquartered research organisation that specialises in educational technology.

Article Source:

  1. Robots to teach in Abu Dhabi school- Robots and humanoids to take over classrooms at private school

Additional information

  1. Merryland International School
  2. International Business Times- United Arab Emirates: Robots to Teach in Abu Dhabi Classrooms
  3. Alderbaran – Maker of NAO robot
  4. The Robot Center – Maker of Aisoy

SOUND OFF

Should robots replace teachers?

Amazing Ways The Google Car Will Change the World-infographic

or, then again…it could be like this:

What do you think?