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This Should End Well: MIT Made a Robot That Can Read Your Mind

We love to joke about events in the scientific community that herald the end of the world or the inevitable robot uprising. It’s funny to talk about robots malfunctioning and appearing to escape to live life as a free robot, or to feign hand-wringing when a robotic personal assistant is trained to read the inflection of your voice. Because, really, it’s just silly stories. That sort of technology couldn’t possibly lead to the swift extinction at the hands of robotic overlords. It’s not like we’re teaching robots to read our minds or anything, right?

Well, MIT taught a robot to read a human’s mind.

In all seriousness, the technology behind this robot is fascinating — MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory made a robot that responds to a human’s brain signals (with a face that looks like it’s out of a kid’s show to alleviate our fears of it ruthlessly taking over society). In the video above, said robot sorts wire and paint into two different bins, making choices based on the brain waves of a person wearing an EEG (electroencephalogram) cap who is watching the robot work.

Essentially, when the human sees what the robot is doing and notices it is placing the wire or paint in the incorrect bin, the robot senses those brain waves and corrects its behavior. As MIT News explains, those particular brain waves are called error-related potentials, or ErrPs, and determine the bot’s actions. Even cooler, if the robot doesn’t read any ErrPs and ends up putting the wrong item in the wrong bin, the ErrPs it will read from its human after the fact will tell the robot that it performed the task incorrectly, and it “feels embarrassed” (or at least projects an embarrassed face).

While the team at MIT is only working on simple “right” and “wrong” commands right now, it hopes to expand this technology in the future. It’s one way of making robots and artificial intelligences more human and helpful. What do you think of MIT’s new mind-reading robot? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Feature Image: MITCSAIL/Youtube

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