How Do You Teach Human Interaction to a Robot? Lots of TV

Remember the Jetsons' robot maid, Rosie? Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers think her future real-life incarnations can learn a thing or two from Steve Carell and other sitcom stars.

MIT says a computer that binge-watched YouTube videos and TV shows such as "The Office," "Big Bang Theory" and "Desperate Housewives" learned how to predict whether the actors were about to hug, kiss, shake hands or slap high fives -- advances that eventually could help the next generation of artificial intelligence function less clumsily.

"It could help a robot move more fluidly through your living space," lead researcher Carl Vondrick told The Associated Press in an interview. "The robot won't want to start pouring milk if it thinks you're about to pull the glass away."

Vondrick also sees potential health-care applications: "If you can predict that someone's about to fall down or start a fire or hurt themselves, it might give you a few seconds' advance notice to intervene."

The findings -- two years in the making at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory -- will be presented at next week's International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in Las Vegas.

Vondrick, a doctoral candidate focusing on computer vision and machine learning with grants from Google and the National Science Foundation, worked with MIT professor Antonio Torralba and Hamed Pirsiavash, now at the University of Maryland. The trio wanted to see if they could create an algorithm that could mimic a human being's intuition in anticipating what will happen next after two people meet.

To refine what's known in artificial intelligence studies as "predictive vision," they needed to expose their machine-learning system to video showing humans greeting one another.

Cue what Vondrick acknowledges were "random videos off YouTube." Six hundred hours of them, to be precise.

The researchers downloaded the videos and converted them into visual representations...

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