The first rule of robotics is you do not talk about robotics that a robot should not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. But how does a robot know when its acts or omissions are causing nearby fleshies discomfort? The obvious way is to scan for the same signals of distress that we humans do -- facial, physical, and aural -- but another, more fun, way is to just hit people over and over again and ask them how much each blow hurt. That's what professor Borut Povse over in Slovenia is doing, in a research project he describes as "impact emulation," where six test subjects are punched by a robotic arm until they can't take it anymore. It's funny, yes, but it's also novel and a somewhat ingenious way to collect data and produce more intelligent machines. Of course, whether we actually want more intelligent machines is another matter altogether.

[Thanks, Anthony]

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Robots learning our pain threshold by punching humans and seeing if they cry