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  • My job is to design, build and study

  • robots that communicate with people.

  • But this story doesn't start with robotics at all,

  • it starts with animation.

  • When I first saw Pixar's "Luxo Jr.,"

  • I was amazed by how much emotion

  • they could put into something

  • as trivial as a desk lamp.

  • I mean, look at them -- at the end of this movie,

  • you actually feel something for two pieces of furniture.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I said, I have to learn how to do this.

  • So I made a really bad career decision.

  • And that's what my mom was like when I did it.

  • (Laughter)

  • I left a very cozy tech job in Israel

  • at a nice software company and I moved to New York

  • to study animation.

  • And there I lived

  • in a collapsing apartment building

  • I'm not using this phrase metaphorically,

  • the ceiling actually collapsed one day

  • in our living room.

  • Whenever they did those news stories

  • they would put the report in front of our building.

  • As kind of like a backdrop

  • Anyway, during the day I went to school and at night

  • I would sit and draw frame by frame

  • And I learned two surprising lessons --

  • one of them was that

  • when you want to arouse emotions,

  • it doesn't matter so much how something looks,

  • it's all in the motion -- it's in the timing

  • of how the thing moves.

  • And the second, was something

  • He actually did the weasel in Ice Age.

  • And he said:

  • "As an animator you are not

  • So, if you want to find the

  • don't think about it, go use your body to find it --

  • stand in front of a mirror, act it out

  • in front of a camera -- whatever you need.

  • And then put it back in your character.

  • A year later I found myself at MIT

  • in the robotic life group, it was one of the first groups

  • researching the relationships

  • And I still had this dream to make

  • an actual, physical Luxo Jr. lamp.

  • But I found that robots didn't move at all

  • in this engaging way that I was used to

  • for my animation studies.

  • Instead, they were all --

  • how should I put it, they were all kind of robotic.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I thought, what if I took whatever

  • and used that to design my robotic desk lamp.

  • So I went and designed frame by frame

  • to try to make this robot

  • as graceful and engaging as possible.

  • And here when you see the robot interacting with me

  • on a desktop.

  • And I'm actually redesigning the robot so,

  • unbeknownst to itself,

  • it's kind of digging its own grave by helping me.

  • (Laughter)

  • I wanted it to be less of a mechanical structure

  • giving me light,

  • and more of a helpful, kind of quiet apprentice

  • that's always there when you need

  • And when, for example, I'm looking for a battery

  • that I can't find,

  • in a subtle way, it will show me where the battery is.

  • So you can see my confusion here.

  • I'm not an actor.

  • And I want you to notice how the same

  • mechanical structure can at one point,

  • just by the way it moves seem gentle and caring --

  • and in the other case, seem

  • And it's the same structure,

  • Actor: "You want to know something?

  • He was already dead!

  • Just laying there, eyes glazed over!"

  • (Laughter)

  • But, moving in graceful ways is just one

  • called human-robot interaction.

  • I was at the time doing my Ph.D.,

  • I was working on human robot teamwork;

  • teams of humans and robots working together.

  • I was studying the engineering,

  • the psychology, the philosophy of teamwork.

  • And at the same time I found myself

  • in my own kind of teamwork situation

  • with a good friend of mine who is actually here.

  • And in that situation we can easily imagine robots

  • in the near future being there with us.

  • It was after a Passover seder.

  • We were folding up a lot of folding chairs,

  • and I was amazed at how quickly

  • Everybody did their own part.

  • We didn't have to divide our tasks.

  • We didn't have to communicate verbally about this.

  • It all just happened.

  • And I thought,

  • humans and robots don't look at all like this.

  • When humans and robots interact,

  • it's much more like a chess game.

  • The human does a thing,

  • the robot analyzes whatever the human did,

  • then the robot decides what to do next,

  • plans it and does it.

  • And then the human waits, until it's their turn again.

  • So, it's much more like a chess game

  • and that makes sense because chess is great

  • for mathematicians and computer scientists.

  • It's all about information analysis,

  • decision making and planning.

  • But I wanted my robot to be less of a chess player,

  • and more like a doer

  • that just clicks and works together.

  • So I made my second horrible career choice:

  • I decided to study acting for a semester.

  • I took off from a Ph.D. I went to acting classes.

  • I actually participated in a play,

  • I hope theres no video of that around still.

  • And I got every book I could find about acting,

  • including one from the 19th century

  • that I got from the library.

  • And I was really amazed because my

  • the previous name was in 1889. (Laughter)

  • And this book was kind of waiting for 100 years

  • to be rediscovered for robotics.

  • And this book shows actors

  • how to move every muscle in the body

  • to match every kind of emotion

  • But the real revelation was

  • when I learned about method acting.

  • It became very popular in the 20th century.

  • And method acting said, you don't have

  • Instead you have to use your body

  • You have to use your sense memory

  • to reconstruct the emotions and kind of

  • think with your body to find the right expression.

  • Improvise, play off yor scene partner.

  • And this came at the same time

  • in cognitive psychology called embodied cognition.

  • Which also talks about the same ideas --

  • We use our bodies to think,

  • we don't just think with our brains

  • but our bodies feed back into our brain

  • to generate the way that we behave.

  • And it was like a lightning bolt.

  • I went back to my office.

  • I wrote this paper -- which I never really published

  • called "Acting Lessons for Artificial Intelligence."

  • And I even took another month

  • to do what was then the first theater play

  • with a human and a robot acting together.

  • That's what you saw before with the actors.

  • And I thought:

  • How can we make an artificial intelligence model --

  • computer, computational model --

  • that will model some of these ideas of improvisation,

  • of taking risks, of taking chances,

  • even of making mistakes.

  • Maybe it can make for better robotic teammates.

  • So I worked for quite a long time on these models

  • and I implemented them on a number of robots.

  • Here you can see a very early example

  • with the robots trying to use this

  • to try to match my movements

  • sort of like a game.

  • Let's look at it.

  • You can see when I psych it out, it gets fooled.

  • And it's a little bit like what you might see actors do

  • when they try to mirror each other

  • to find the right synchrony between them.

  • And then, I did another experiment,

  • and I got people off the street

  • and try out this idea of embodied

  • So, I actually used two kinds

  • The robot is the same lamp that you saw,

  • and I put in it two brains.

  • For one half of the people,

  • I put in a brain that's kind of the traditional,

  • calculated robotic brain.

  • It waits for its turn, it analyzes everything, it plans.

  • Let's call it the calculated brain.

  • The other got more the stage actor, risk taker brain.

  • Let's call it the adventurous brain.

  • It sometimes acts without knowing

  • It sometimes makes mistakes and corrects them.

  • And I had them do this very tedious task

  • that took almost 20 minutes

  • and they had to work together.

  • Somehow simulating like a factory job

  • of repetitively doing the same thing.

  • And what I found was that people actually loved

  • the adventurous robot.

  • And they thought it was more intelligent,

  • more committed, a better member of the team,

  • contributed to the success of the team more.

  • They even called it 'he' and 'she,'

  • whereas people with the calculated brain called it 'it.'

  • And nobody ever called it 'he' or 'she'.

  • When they talked about it after the task

  • with the adventurous brain,

  • they said, "By the end, we were good

  • Whatever that means.

  • (Laughter) Sounds painful.

  • Whereas the people with the calculated brain

  • said it was just like a lazy apprentice.

  • It only did what it was supposed

  • Which is almost what people expect robots to do,

  • so I was surprised that people

  • of robots, than what anybody in robotics

  • And in a way, I thought, maybe it's time --

  • just like method acting changed the way

  • people thought about acting in the 19th century,

  • from going from the very calculated,

  • planned way of behaving,

  • to a more intuitive, risk-taking,

  • Maybe it's time for robots

  • to have the same kind of revolution.

  • A few years later,

  • I was at my next research job

  • and I was working in a group

  • dealing with robotic musicians.

  • And I thought, music, that's the perfect place

  • to look at teamwork, coordination,

  • timing, improvisation --

  • and we just got this robot playing marimba.

  • Marimba, for everybody who was like me,

  • it was this huge, wooden xylophone.

  • And, when I was looking at this,

  • I looked at other works in

  • yes, there are other works in

  • and they were also a little bit like a chess game.

  • The human would play,

  • the robot would analyze what was played,

  • would improvise their own part.

  • So, this is what musicians called

  • a call and response interaction,

  • and it also fits very well, robots

  • But I thought, if I use the same ideas I used

  • in the theater play and in the teamwork studies,

  • maybe I can make the robots jam together

  • like a band.

  • Everybody's riffing off each other,

  • And so, I tried to do the same

  • where the robot doesn't really know

  • what it's about to play.

  • It just sort of moves its body

  • and uses opportunities to play,

  • And does what </