Ihave always preferred the term Machine Intelligence over Artificial Intelligence. The word artificial generally denotes that something is fake — that it is an imitation of the real thing. A major goal of AI research is to make it possible for machines to think
more like humans, and calling it artificial just doesn’t seem
like a good start.
There are times, though, when imitating intelligence is
a good thing. Recently my robot, Arlo (see the four-part
series “The Robot You’ve Always Wanted,” which began in
the January 2015 issue of SERVO) was asked to speak at
STEMCON 2016: an educational convention touting the
virtues of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Arlo was to give an enlightening (and entertaining)
presentation during his breakout session. I accepted the
invitation because Arlo would get his own table throughout
the convention, which would allow me to tell hundreds of
teachers how they and their students could get free copies
of RobotBASIC from www.RobotBASIC.org. Figure 1
shows a picture of Arlo at our table.
I already had a nice demo for Arlo that showed off
many of his capabilities such as simple navigation, sensing
and avoiding objects in his environment, manipulating and
identifying small objects with his arms, accepting verbal
commands, and displaying emotions with a graphical face
synchronized to his voice.
I’ve found that such abilities often impress hobbyists
and others with a technical background because they
understand how difficult such things can be. Most of the
people at the convention, though, would be middle or high
school teachers and administrators — people without
backgrounds in electronics or programming. I wanted Arlo
to impress these people and I knew he would need more
than a conventional demo. After all, these people grew up
watching robots on TV and in the movies — their
expectations would be high.
After much thought, I came up with a list of ideas that
could make Arlo appear more intelligent than he really is.
All the ideas were easily implemented using Arlo’s existing
hardware and sensors. The really great thing, though, was
that many of the ideas can be applied to any hobby robot.
Below is a list of the ideas I used, along with some
implementation details. Hopefully, you can add some of
these ideas to your robot and make it even more impressive
at your next demonstration, whether it be for friends and
family or at your local robot club. All of the ideas will not
apply to every robot, of course, but even those that don’t
apply directly to your robot might inspire some ideas of
When your robot demonstrates some form of
emotions, it can make it seem more lifelike to those
watching. This can be something as simple as being polite
by using words like please and thank you. It can be even
The goal of most robot hobbyists is to create a robot capable of
doing something that demonstrates some degree of intelligence. It
might be something as simple as following a line or a more complex
behavior such as being able to locate a charging station when
batteries are starting to deplete. Sometimes though, a robot just
needs to look intelligent. This article examines such situations and
offers suggestions for how to make your robot appear more
intelligent than it really is.
Imitation Al By John Blankenship
32 SERVO 10.2016