When it comes to imitating human emotion, robots have a long way to go, but researchers at Columbia Engineering’s Creative Machines Lab have taken an initial step toward this goal. They designed a robot capable of predicting another robot’s intent, essentially placing itself in the shoes (or the little plastic wheels) of the second machine.
Here’s how engineers designed the experiment: They placed one robot in a 3-foot by 2-foot playpen and programmed it to travel toward any green circle it could see projected on the floor. A large red box obscured the robot’s view of some circles, meaning it didn’t travel to these spots, even if they were physically closer than others. From above, the observer robot watched its buddy navigate the space for two hours and then began predicting its path.