The Bartender Robot

The activities in a pub or a club are demanding. You have to take orders from guests, you have to understand them and be friendly to them, and you have to prepare drinks like Porn Star Martini or White Lady behind the counter. Then you must bring the bill, take money and give change. Robots are more or less good at these things. F & P Robotics has developed Barney, a complete and simple robotic bar solution. The Swiss company is known for its ambitious robots for therapy and care. Now it obviously wants to conquer the gastronomy. Barney offers an easy-to-use interface and a simple payment system. According to the manufacturer, the system impresses with elegant movements during the preparation of the drink. As a typical cobot, it can also work hand in hand with human bartenders. At Hotel Interlaken, Switzerland, you can see Barney in action from 13 August to 15 September 2019. You can form your own opinion and either come to the conclusion that this is the future – or that you still want a human service and a human smile. More information via www.barney-bar.com.

Knightscope’s Fourth Generation K5

Knightscope’s security robots have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years. They can see, hear and smell – and report anything suspicious to a central office. A new generation has emerged from a partnership with Samsung. The monolithic cone has become a piecemeal object. The company writes in its blog: “With its all new, fully suspended drivetrain, the K5v4 is uniquely suited to manage the more aggressive terrain outside Samsung’s Silicon Valley workplace. Since deploying, we have been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a robot guard tour in areas inhibited by speed bumps, while continuing to sweep both of their multi-story parking garages for abandoned vehicles and provide their command center with the additional eyes and ears to provide more security intelligence and improve overall security.” (Knightscope, 16 June 2019) Security robots can certainly be an option in closed areas. When used in public spaces, many ethical questions are raised. However, security robots can do more than security cameras. And it is hard to escape the fourth generation.

The Relationship between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Ethics

Artificial intelligence has human or animal intelligence as a reference and attempts to represent it in certain aspects. It can also try to deviate from human or animal intelligence, for example by solving problems differently with its systems. Machine ethics is dedicated to machine morality, producing it and investigating it. Whether one likes the concepts and methods of machine ethics or not, one must acknowledge that novel autonomous machines emerge that appear more complete than earlier ones in a certain sense. It is almost surprising that artificial morality did not join artificial intelligence much earlier. Especially machines that simulate human intelligence and human morality for manageable areas of application seem to be a good idea. But what if a superintelligence with a supermorality forms a new species superior to ours? That’s science fiction, of course. But also something that some scientists want to achieve. Basically, it’s important to clarify terms and explain their connections. This is done in a graphics that was published in July 2019 on informationsethik.net and is linked here.

The Struggle of the German Bundestag with Explaining the Robotical Facts of Life

In July 2018, the German party FDP posed several questions to the German Bundestag to get more insight about the political strategy in the field of AI and robotics and its progress (see Drucksache 19/3714). One of those was about the handling of sexbots. The reply left the question more open than answered. This does not only show the still missing awareness of the urgency to be concerned with AI and robotics. It also shows the political ignorance towards this topic. Considering the number of commercial brothels already using love dolls, this is even more bothering. In Germany, at least one such establishment exists, in other countries like Switzerland or South Korea even more. In general, you have to define, whether sexual services provided by such dolls can be seen as prostitution and if so, how to extend the concerning laws (in case, they exists). In South Korea, for example, prostitution is illegal, what makes the police facing exactly this definition problem. For a country like Germany, where one of the most detailed and latest published laws about prostitution exists, you may think, the legislatory would react. Not to mention the arising ethical questions.

China’s Brain Drain

“China’s AI talent base is growing, and then leaving” – this is what Joy Dantong Ma writes in an article with the same title. Artificial intelligence is promoted in the People’s Republic in various ways. Money is invested in technologies, institutions, and people. “China has been successful in producing AI talent, evidenced by the rapid growth of AI human capital over the last decade.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) This seems to be good news for the country in the Far East. But the study to which the article refers comes to a different conclusion. While “Beijing has cultivated an army of top AI talent, well over half of that talent eventually ended up in America rather than getting hired by domestic companies and institutions”. “That’s because most of the government resources went into expanding the talent base rather than creating incentives and an environment in which they stay.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) According to Joy Dantong Ma, Beijing seems to have recognized its failure in retaining talent. “The well-known New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, released in 2017, vowed to lure top-notch AI scientists in neural network, machine learning, self-driving cars, and intelligent robotics by opening up special channels and offering up competitive compensation packages. Still, it’s not clear that Beijing will be able to reverse the Chinese AI brains from draining to its biggest competitor, the United States.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) Does the USA even want the talents? That is anything but clear in these times.

Unknown Links between Classic Artworks

Can machine vision detect unknown connections between famous or classic artworks? This seems to be the case, as the work of Tomas Jenicek and Ondřej Chum shows. In their paper “Linking Art through Human Poses” they write: “We address the discovery of composition transfer in artworks based on their visual content. Automated analysis of large art collections, which are growing as a result of art digitization among museums and galleries, is an important tool for art history and assists cultural heritage preservation. Modern image retrieval systems offer good performance on visually similar artworks, but fail in the cases of more abstract composition transfer. The proposed approach links artworks through a pose similarity of human figures depicted in images.” (Abstract) Human figures are the subject of many paintings from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age and their unmistakable poses have often been a source of inspiration among artists. Think of “Sleeping Venus” by Giorgione, “Venus of Urbino” by Titian and “Olympia” by Édouard Manet – paintings with similarities and correlations. The method of the two scientists consists of fast pose matching and robust spatial verification. They “experimentally show that explicit human pose matching is superior to standard content-based image retrieval methods on a manually annotated art composition transfer dataset” (Abstract). The paper can be downloaded via arxiv.org/abs/1907.03537.