Exercise 25.12 [human-robot-exercise]

(This exercise was first devised by Michael Genesereth and Nils Nilsson. It works for first graders through graduate students.) Humans are so adept at basic household tasks that they often forget how complex these tasks are. In this exercise you will discover the complexity and recapitulate the last 30 years of developments in robotics. Consider the task of building an arch out of three blocks. Simulate a robot with four humans as follows:

Brain. The Brain direct the hands in the execution of a plan to achieve the goal. The Brain receives input from the Eyes, but cannot see the scene directly. The brain is the only one who knows what the goal is.

Eyes. The Eyes report a brief description of the scene to the Brain: “There is a red box standing on top of a green box, which is on its side” Eyes can also answer questions from the Brain such as, “Is there a gap between the Left Hand and the red box?” If you have a video camera, point it at the scene and allow the eyes to look at the viewfinder of the video camera, but not directly at the scene.

Left hand and right hand. One person plays each Hand. The two Hands stand next to each other, each wearing an oven mitt on one hand, Hands execute only simple commands from the Brain—for example, “Left Hand, move two inches forward.” They cannot execute commands other than motions; for example, they cannot be commanded to “Pick up the box.” The Hands must be blindfolded. The only sensory capability they have is the ability to tell when their path is blocked by an immovable obstacle such as a table or the other Hand. In such cases, they can beep to inform the Brain of the difficulty.

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