Saying No: Teaching Robots to Reject Orders

The anthropomorphic robot stands on a table. “Sit down,” a nearby human says. “Okay,” the robot says, before squatting down. The human then tells the robot to stand and walk forward. “Sorry, I cannot do that as there is no support ahead,” the robot responds. “Walk forward,” the human reiterates. “But, it is unsafe.” “I will catch you,” replies the human, who subsequently requests the robot walk forward again. The robot traipses towards the edge of the table, no sign of stopping. At the edge, the human catches it. Researchers from Tuft’s Univ.’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab are teaching robots how to reject orders. “Future robots will need mechanisms to determine when and how it is best to reject directives that it receives from interlocutors,” write researchers Gordon Briggs and Matthias…


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