Students explore artificial intelligence at open house



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Junior Austin Imperial and Senior Alex Hodge play with companion robot PARO at the School of Informatics & Computing's Intelligent Systems Open House event Friday afternoon at Georgian Room in the Indiana Memorial Union. The open house featured students presenting their research, live demonstrations, and the introduction of different types of robots in computing. Andrew Williams Buy Photos

Marlena Fraune said she wants to get people talking with robots.

Fraune, a Ph.D. student in the School of Informatics and Computing, created an experiement in which participants interact with a robot capable of pre-programmed conversation.

The conversation would start off casually, then turn into a game of “I Spy” with the participant, Fraune said. After a certain period of time, the participant would be asked to turn off the robot, despite its initial protests.

This project was just one of many presented at an open house presented by the School of Informatics and Computing on Friday.

The open house event was part of National Robotics Week, an annual event that celebrates innovations in robotic technology in the United States, according to the National Robotics Week website.

Reactions from the participants to the robots’ protests were mixed, Fraune said. She said some of the participants were apathetic and had no trouble turning off the robot, while others were more empathetic and therefore hesitant to turn it off.

The longest time a participant took to turn off the robot was about two minutes, Fraune said.

The purpose of this project was to make people less aggressive and more empathetic toward robots in everyday life so they can be used more often in the future, Fraune said.

Along with artificial intelligence, other research and education showcased at the event included robotics, human-robot interaction and cognitive science, the study of thought, co-organizer David Crandall said.

“We have a broad range of things that give intelligence to computers,” Crandall said.

The goal of the projects was to create robots capable of helping the future, Crandall said. This could be through manufacturing, elder care or academics.

About 30 graduate and undergraduate students participated in the open house event, Crandall said. Most of the work for their presentations was done through personal research in classes at the School of Informatics and Computing.

Crandall said all of the participants are students in the School of Informatics and Computing’s four programs: computer science, informatics, information and library science, and intelligent systems engineering.

“We’re in several different programs, so it’s great to get us all together for, if nothing else, to meet each other,” Crandall said.

One project centered on creating a method that would be able to recognize human activity in an efficient and reliable way, project researcher and master’s student Maria Elli said.

The most successful means of achieving that would be to make the system to recognize human activities in real time, Elli said.

“The focus of this project is to make it in real time so it can be fast enough to interact with humans,” Elli said.

If she is successful in completing her research, Elli said the finished product would be able to complete human activities for people.

Many of the projects at the open house event will be presented at competitions in the future, Crandall said.

Crandall said he believes the open house event was a great way to showcase the discoveries and research being done at IU.

“We’re really trying to show off our research and give students the opportunity to show what they’re learning,” he said. “I think it’s great for everyone when that happens.”

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