The U.S. Military Is Building Voice-Controlled War Robots
And unlike Siri, they’ll be able to understand the speaker’s ‘intent’
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War robots today take just too much darn time to control. I know it, you know it, and the U.S. Army knows it.
That’s why its research branch is cooking up a system that would allow soldiers to give orders to small robotic cars by speaking naturally, as opposed to using specific commands. The robots would be able to understand the soldiers’ intent and complete the given task, according to an Army press release. The system would be used for scouting out areas and search-and-rescue.
But there’s reason to be skeptical: The Army claims that robots with this system would be able to understand the operator’s intent, but that could misfire, literally.
Intent recognition has become a standard part of any chatbot, the most similar technology to what the Army is trying to create. These bots are trained on common questions or phrases, which are matched with a specific intent. For instance, “call a cab,” “get me a car,” and “taxi,” would all be tied to the command for Siri to open the Uber app. But these commands need to be preprogrammed into the system. What the algorithm actually learns is the method of matching words to commands, not how to follow commands, create new commands, or adapt in any way.
Under this new system, an Army robot would have to integrate context about its physical surroundings with informal speech — a considerably more complex task than asking Siri to reference Wikipedia for a piece of trivia, for example. “Go over there,” can mean something different every time it’s said, creating a realm of infinite possibilities to be navigated. Even if the soldier operating the robot were to point or mention a landmark, the A.I. would still require layers and layers of additional algorithms to understand what landmarks look like, or how to trace the path of a human pointing.