Cyberpunk Review » You know I hate to ask, but are ‘phriends’ robotic?

September 11, 2008

You know I hate to ask, but are ‘phriends’ robotic?

Sources: ZDNet, ICT Results, PHRIENDS Consortium website


No, don’t go singing that Rembrants song! We’re not talking about the TV show, but a European project consortium. One with a rather ambitious goal: To get robots to observe and obey Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

From the PHRIENDS website, project page:

The European Machine Directive 98/37/EC states that all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that machinery or safety components may be placed on the market and put into service only if they do no endanger the health or safety of persons and, where appropriate, domestic animals or property.

This directive is the basic impetus behind the PHRIENDS project to make “safer” robots for human-robot interaction. The three-year project is due to end September 30, 2009, and they hope robots will be safe enough for humans by then. Exactly how do they plan to do this? Develop the technology:

From the Objectives page

A) new actuator concepts and prototypes;
B) new dependable algorithms for supervision and planning;
C) new control algorithms for handling safe human-robot physical interaction and for fault tolerant behaviour.

Furthermore, PHRIENDS will
D) integrate these components in functionally meaningful subsystems;
E) evaluate quantitatively components and subsystems via experimental testing;
F) contribute to the ongoing effort of international bodies towards the establishment of new standards for collaborative human-robot operation.

So, where’s the Three Laws? It appears the the forced programming of the Three Laws is not in the plans… yet. Although (B) and (C) could be used as reasons for such programming.

If this project does succeed, will it keep potential SkyNets, SHODANs, and HALs from being created? And what will this do to America’s bot-crazed military programs?


Then again, if humans have to work around bots like this 700 ton earth-mover or this self-steering (maybe self-driving?) bus, one had better hope they are “Three Laws safe.”

This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.


September 11, 2008

Mr No1 said:

Oh no! Does that mean machines won’t be killing people that much?? What’s the fun then?

“they do no endanger the health or safety of persons and, where appropriate, domestic animals” … If the dog pisses on the carpet the robot will disembowel it, no problem. And forget about foxes or racconns… And, of course, robo-hunters will be sold at your grocery shop.

Fuck’s sake…

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