Robotic Futures: Reading Minds & Mastering Gentle Touch

Robotic Futures: Reading Minds & Mastering Gentle Touch

Doors open @ 6pm — Come early and meet other Long Now thinkers — Presentations start @ 7pm. Tickets available via Eventbrite

A Long Now Boston Community Conversation with Bruce Blumberg, Principal UX Engineer at Universal Robots

Our intelligence enables us to survive in the physical and social world. While we celebrate our vaunted cognitive abilities, they are a thin veneer for far more impressive abilities: interacting gracefully in the physical world and using pre-cognitive skill in predicting and responding to other social beings.   

Bruce believes that physical awareness is a far more difficult and fundamental challenge for robotics than Artificial General Intelligence.  The physical knowledge of our bodies, so easily acquired by humans, has proven incredibly difficult for roboticists to program and robots to learn.  Deep learning algorithms can probe massive databases a billion times faster than a human, yet the most sophisticated robots struggle in dealing with edges and surfaces.  Tasks that seem so easy for dogs and babies to master are baffling the robots.

Yet this seemingly modest goal will likely be easy compared to another challenging functionality – communication. Dogs may lack the capacity for abstract reasoning, but they expertly communicate and share reciprocal affection with their human companions – while ignoring the punches and hair-pulling of the toddler and avoiding Grandpa as he shuffles towards a chair.  These talents are very difficult to decompose to the level required for robotic programming. And the learning environment for robotic assistants is unforgiving – one inadvertent physical mishap is one too many.

Join other Long Now Boston enthusiasts as Bruce shares his insights about the human/robot interface and the trajectory of the robotic future.  We can envision human lives significantly enhanced by an orchestra of robotic devices with exquisite physical and robust communication skills. The challenges say something profound about the nature of the machines that will increasingly inhabit our world.

Among the questions the speakers will address:

  • Why is moving through the physical world so hard?
  • What are the ethical and technical challenges to robotic compassion?
  • What are the key milestones to a highly robotic future?
  • What should we do now to achieve the best result?

Join the conversation and be part of the solution.

$15 in advance // $20 at the door. Students w/ID admitted free.

Audience participation is encouraged.

If Eventbrite tickets sell out, seating for walk-ups will unlikely be available due to room size.

About the speaker:

Bruce Blumberg is a Principal UX Engineer at Universal Robots, the world’s leading collaborative robot manufacturer. Previously, he was Research Fellow at Rethink Robotics, and held management positions at the MIT Media Lab, Blue Fang Games, Apple Computer and NeXT Computer.  At Universal and Rethink, Bruce helped usher in the new age of collaborative robots. Rather than being caged for safety and programmed for a single purpose, collaborative robots are designed to be safe, small and economical and to work side by side with people. At Blue Fang, Bruce led the development of expressive, intelligent and engrossing animal characters, raising the bar for digital entertainment.  Bruce was an associate professor at The MIT Media Lab and served as director of the Synthetic Characters Group leading groundbreaking research on behavior, learning and motor control for autonomous animated characters. Bruce earned an MS in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a PhD in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Lab.

We’re proud and excited to welcome Bruce Blumberg to the Long Now Boston community.

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of this Long Now Boston conversation. We are very grateful for their support.


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