Smart or Scary? Software That Follows You

Smart or Scary? Software That Follows You

Rity, a software robot (or "sobot"), can transfer itself from one computer to another to serve his masters; Kim Jong-Hwan, director of the Robot Intelligence Technology lab and the other researchers in Korea's Institute of Advanced Science and Technology.

Rity is an autonomous agent, a very special software program that can transfer itself (upload/download) from robots or computers—all by itself. It can upload itself into a mobile robot—like MyBot, a simplified version of robots used to play in the Robot-soccer association—and then actually follow its master around physically (take a look at MyBot).

If its master goes out of reach, it can use cameras throughout the building to search for him, and then upload itself into computers that are close by its master, ready for instructions.

When it appears on a computer screen, Rity takes the form of a cute little puppy, whose facial expressions tell how it is feeling. (See the many faces of Rity the sobot.)

Rity started out with a simple robotic "genome" consisting of 14 "chromosomes" in 1,800 bytes that control 77 of Rity's behaviors. Rity's behavior can be partly shaped by training; however, the sobot's "personality" is a result of not just training, but all other environmental influences.

The ultimate goal of the researchers is for everyone to have a sobot—an intelligent agent that knows all of your needs, and follows you around to help you with whatever you do.

One of the earliest descriptions of an omnipresent intelligent agent is found in Frederik Pohl's amazing 1965 novel The Age of the Pussyfoot, a novel set several centuries in the future. Every person has a special device called a joymaker that allows him to be in constant contact with the network—and his intelligent agent, which is based on his interests profile.

"...Have you filled out an interests profile? ...Then it will tell you what programs are on, what parties you will be welcomed at, who you would wish to know. It's terrible to go on impulse, Charles," she said earnestly. "Let the joymaker help you." "I don't understand," he said. "You mean I should let the joymaker decide what I'm going to do for fun?" "Of course. There's so much. How could you know what you would like?" (Read more about the interests profile)

In the novel, human beings were entirely dependent upon joymakers for every facet of their lives. Computer scientists speculate that some sort of intelligent agent software will be needed to find what we need when there are too many choices for us to reasonably search through. (For now, we have Google!)

Via Wired.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)

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Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.