‘Technology does not take us into account. That is unnatural’

English version

Startups can play an important role in the development of ‘socially intelligent robot’, says Vanessa Evers, Professor of Human Media Interactions at University of Twente. Together with her research group she works on the interaction between man and machine. “A robot has to help a person with gardening, not the other way around.”

Vanessa Evers: “Technology has been devised to help people. But the strange thing is that in fact people have to adapt to the technology, not the other way around. Technology does not take Us into account. That is unnatural.”

But that is not the only problem with robots, computers, agents, etc, says Evers. “We are all focused on systems that can do everything and are autonomous. An example: we expect from a cleaning robot that it can clean windows and do vacuuming. Tasks the robot cannot solve, have to be carried out by men or women.”

Social intelligent systems

The result is that (wo)men become subordinate to the technique. While the idea was that technology would support us. “There is a risk that people are reduced to a process to support the machines. A robot must help people with gardening, not the other way around.”

In the ideal world, robots, computers and agents recognize human behavior. Understand things like: who is the boss in this room, why does someone ask a question and why does someone react aggressively? “Then you work on social intelligent systems.”

Startups needed

Evers’ research group is working on the development of social robots and cross cultural human computer interactions. “We work multi-disciplinary, including IT, machine learning, design and electrical engineering.”

The aim is the development of proof of concepts. Startups are indispensable for the further development of such systems, says Evers. “Governments and large industries are less agile, and see innovations as a risk. Startups are therefore necessary to put such social systems into practice.”

Take your time

Evers would like to co-operate even more with startups: after all, young companies are closer to the market than for instance a university. The obstacle to this collaboration is that many startups need to show results in a reasonably short time frame, according to Evers. “We as scientists need to shift our work patterns and planning to accommodate that need better. But the development of socially intelligent robot takes root slowly.”

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