Human brain waves being used to teach robots... how to shoot

Here’s your weekend reminder of the brave new world to come just in case you were finding it too easy to get to sleep at night. You might recall a couple of weeks back when we learned that the Russians now have honest to goodness bipedal robots utilizing Artificial Intelligence which are learning how to shoot guns. (Their creators assure us that it’s nothing like Terminator, even though it looks exactly like Terminator.) We don’t have to worry too much yet because identifying targets correctly in the complex, chaotic landscape of the real world is still a task which is too difficult for your average computer algorithm. But that firewall of security may be collapsing quickly. Government Executive reports that our own military – never ones to be outdone by the Russians – is upping their game. They’re teaching robots with human brain waves, so Sarah Connor probably shouldn’t be resting any easier than she was before.

Humans still outperform armed robots in knowing what to shoot at — but new research funded in part by the Army may soon narrow that gap.

Researchers from DCS Corp and the Army Research Lab fed datasets of human brain waves into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence — which learned to recognize when a human is making a targeting decision. They presented their paper on it at the annual Intelligent User Interface conference in Cyprus in March.

Why is this a big deal? Machine learning relies on highly structured data, numbers in rows that software can read. But identifying a target in the chaotic real world is incredibly difficult for computers. The human brain does it easily, structuring data in the form of memories, but not in a language machines can understand. It’s a problem that the military has been grappling with for years.

As with many other such advancements, this doesn’t sound like a case of a machine actually “thinking” as such. It’s more a case of building up a profile of the brain waves of humans while conducting a particular activity and having the AI duplicate it. The operations of the human brain still remain something of a mystery at the deeper levels, but we’ve been able to replicate a number of those processes ourselves already. We’ve seen working models of powered wheelchairs which people can operate with their minds as well as artificial limbs which be controlled just by “thinking at them” or exoskeletal braces which allow paralyzed people to do the same thing. Combining that technology with AI and robots could only be a short trip around the block from there.

In the meantime, just in case the terrifying future isn’t flying at you quickly enough, we’ll close out this evening with a video. Courtesy of Boston Dynamics, here’s who will be coming to visit you if you get behind on paying your taxes before too long. It’s… PETMAN! Just picture this guy with a Glock in each fist. Oh, and… sleep tight.

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