Pleased to meet you, too, C-3PO
May 18, 2010
Israel doesn’t have many friends out there – though that’s not why Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will this week announce the world’s first international tournament to build a robot that can shake a human hand.
The announcement will be made Wednesday at the Sixth Computational Motor Control Workshop of the biomedical engineering department of the Beer-Sheva-based university.
The competition will be announced by Dr. Amir Karniel, an engineer who is a member of the University staff.
“The prize money is not very significant – only about $1,000,” Karniel told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “It is mainly for the honor and for a scientific journal article that will be published.”
The winner of the competition will be announced at next year’s computational motor control conference in Beer-Sheva.
Sixty years ago, Alan Turing, an English mathematician, influenced the development of computer science and provided a formalization of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. Together, they played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer.
Turing proposed that the inability of a human interrogator to distinguish between answers provided by a person and those provided by a computer would indicate that the computer could think intelligently. However, the “Turing test” is limited to the linguistic aspects of machine intelligence.
Karniel said the ultimate test must also involve motor intelligence, encouraging the design and construction of a humanoid robot with abilities indistinguishable from those of a human.
“The handshake is of interest not merely as a reduced version of the ultimate humanoid test, but also due to its bidirectional nature, in which both sides actively shake hands and explore each other,” he explained.
“Moreover, motor control research has concentrated on hand movements, generating a variety of hypotheses regarding the humanoid handshake. Last but not least, the greatest progress in telerobotics technologies involves arm movements.”
The entries for the competition could include robots that communicate with each other or with humans from afar, the BGU engineer continued.
“It will not have to be a sophisticated handshake, but could be only an up-and-down movement,” he said.
“Yet it certainly is not simple. We want to understand the human handshake. There may even be medical uses, such as shaking hands with a person with cerebral palsy to judge the amount of disability.”
Applicants should present an initial idea to Karniel by the end of August at firstname.lastname@example.org by submitting their name, affiliation, e-mail address, research field, title of the proposed handshake, and a few words about the main idea of their proposed algorithm.