Monday, March 17, 2008

Big Dog is better at ice than you are!

I have been in love with "Big Dog" since Daniel showed me the original video some years ago. In this new video, Big Dog deals with not only hills, snow, and rocky terrain -- it even skips and jumps.

The obvious highlight of the video is Big Dog's dramatic recovery from a slip on the ice. The slip is replayed in slow motion so that you can really marvel at the capabilities of this thing.

Big Dog is intended to accompany soldiers, functioning as a robotic pack mule.

via BoingBoing


Daniel said...

I hope they also intend to make one that I can have as a pet. Because there's really nothing I'd like more.

Rachael said...

LOL - I just joked to Dima that we should trade in Squark for one.

Or maybe the two would make friends?

It's amazing -- when I first saw BD it's behaviour mostly reminded me of the sort of simple algorithms you'd see from an inch worm.

I didn't have that feeling at all this time. She's come a long way!

Daniel said...

Haha, one of my initial senses was that of a dog without a head. It was eerie, but more than compensated for by nature of BD's pure awesomeness. Any time i get kicked, I rarely keep from falling as well as this little guy does.

What are these inchworm algorithms!?

Chris said...

The reactions seem so complex... which do you think is more like real intelligence: this robot nimbly traversing tough physical terrain, or an "AI" traversing the rough logical terrain of a Sally-Anne test? (I'm subtly trying to assert that NEITHER are much like actual intelligence, though maybe I should know more about their insides before saying that...)

Daniel said...

If by "actual intelligence" you mean the sort of gestalt intelligence of our brains that handles 11 million bits of sensory data every second and integrates that into a lifetime of accumulated patterns, then no, neither are actual intelligence.

It's partly a matter of scale, and partly a matter of scope. Both projects are attacking the intelligence issue from specific angles because training a well-rounded intelligent agent I think is simply too overwhelming a task right now (both to the inventor and the engineer). But the idea of intelligence, I think, can basically be broken down to pattern recognition, simulation, and action. Both of these experiments are performing those tasks, albeit on a lesser scale than "real" intelligence, with fairly simple rules that allow complex behavior to emerge.

So I guess I'd say that both are like actual intelligence, if one's intelligence were technologically limited to one path of attention. And I hope that made sense.

Rachael said...

Let me assert something a little different.

I think Big Dog has more "real intelligence" than an AI put up to the Sally-Anne.

In my experience, AI that deal with the latter work with a bag of simple tricks -- they're not very versatile, and it's easy to expose just how unintelligent they are. I don't think they have anything noteworthy in common with animal intelligence.

Big Dog, on the other hand, isn't just using some simple tricks - it really "understands" itself and it's environment. You can't fool it easily -- as you saw, it handled the ice and being kicked beautifully. I think the way Big Dog does things is quite like animal intelligence, even if what Big Dog does is limited to only one facet of it.

Now I'm wondering -- if you lesioned enough human cortex, leaving just the lower (non-conscious) motor pathways -- would you be left with something very like Big Dog?

Of course, this is all just opinion. I really don't know enough to make accurate assessments.

Chris said...

Somehow I think it's more than just scale and/or scope. Both these creations are trying to "cheat" by imitating very intelligent behaviour without enough of a platform. Big Dog may have some grain of intelligence, but I don't think it's related to understanding terrain... its programming would be too simple for that.

I think an artificial creation that would have more intelligence may not show any intelligent behaviours at all... the internet for example. It may not be set up for human communication or to traverse physical terrain, but it's a much more likely substrate for the development of intelligence. We just can't see it.