*Robot Futures* (and fan out)

This is a very good short book by Illah Reza Nourbakhsh.  Here is one excerpt:

In USAR, the effective number of robots controlled by a single human operator has a formal term: fan out…Ironically, fielded robots have very low fan out scores today.  For instance, the Predator-class drones, unmanned aerial vehicles that fight proxy battles for the United States in distant lands, have a fan out of less than 0.2.  That is, more than five people are required at all times, just to manage a single robot.  In USAR, researchers have begun to demonstrate ever-increasing fan out — exceeding 6.0 — by providing the robots with more and more autonomy so that the human operator is only responsible for the most strategic decisions, with robots making every tactical choice.  Critical to this success is the ability of robots to decide when they need to ask for human help — when they face a survivor, or are stuck in the rubble in a way that the robot cannot extract itself, or when the robot has suffered a serious hardware of software error.  This “intelligent reasoning” for deciding when to ask for help means that one human can manage even more robots to achieve a higher fan out…They do not need true autonomy so much as a willingness to call for help whenever required.  This alleviates the pressure to create perfect robots, and instead good-enough robots can play meaningful roles in a USAR team because humans will bridge the gap between the robot’s capabilities and what the situation demands.

File under “meta-rational robots,” and buy the book here.


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