Socially assistive robots with Maja Matarić [AI miniseries]

June 28, 2023

What if we each had a personal “buddy” to support us? Maja Mataric is a computer scientist, roboticist and AI researcher at the University of Southern California. She pioneered the field of socially assistive robotics: the design of robots to help humans—especially vulnerable people such as kids with autism, the elderly, and people struggling with illness—navigate complicated social needs. In the second episode of our AI miniseries, Maja, Reid, and Aria discuss AI, robots and our future with both. Throughout her career, Maja has sought to understand human needs and desires in order to create the right kind of robot. How big should it be? Should it be a humanoid? Animal? Or… WALL-E? These questions lead to the nature of empathy itself—and what it means for robots to be empathetic. Maja also responds to an AI-generated story that speculates on the role that a socially assistive robot could play for a multigenerational family. Read the transcript of this episode here. Read the AI story here. For more info on the podcast and transcripts of all of the episodes, visit www.possible.fm/podcast.                                                Topics: 03:30 - What inspired Maja to pursue robotics? 06:09 - The pop culture perception of “doomsday robots” 07:32 - What are socially assistive robots? 10:20 - How socially assistive robots can enhance our humanity 12:55 - The relationship between an assistive robot and a human 16:19 - The hardware side of AI 20:05 - How our lives would look different with robots in them 24:06 - Why physically embodied robots are important 27:42 - AI story about intergenerational family and a robot assistant 31:16 - How VR/AR can be integrated with AI 38:34 - Rapidfire questions 44:10 - Debrief with Reid and Aria Possible is a podcast that sketches out the brightest version of the future—and what it will take to get there. Most of all, it asks: what if, in the future, everything breaks humanity's way? In its first season, hosts Reid Hoffman and Aria Finger spoke with visionaries across many fields, from climate science to criminal justice, and from entertainment to education. For this special miniseries, they’re speaking with expert builders and skilled users of artificial intelligence. These conversations also feature another kind of guest, AI. Whether it’s Inflection’s Pi or OpenAI’s GPT-4, each episode will include an AI-generated element to spark discussion.  Possible is produced by Wonder Media Network and hosted by Reid Hoffman and Aria Finger. Our showrunner is Shaun Young. Possible is produced by Edie Allard and Sara Schleede. Jenny Kaplan is our Executive Producer and Editor. Special thanks to Samantha Barber, Surya Yalamanchili, Ian Alas, Greg Beato and Ben Relles.

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