The ai-rt of delegation.

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Researchers at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (RI) in Pittsburgh have developed an algorithmic planner to help assign tasks on the factory floor to humans and robots. The planner, “Act, Delegate or Learn” (ADL), takes into consideration task lists and plans how best to assign them to a mixed workforce of metal or minds. The idea behind the programme is to delegate tasks best suited to people or robots, the objective – to give the optimal division of labour on the factory floor.

“There are costs associated with the decisions made, such as the time it takes a human to complete a task or teach a robot to complete a task and the cost of a robot failing at a task,” said Shivam Vats, the lead researcher and a Ph.D. student in the RI.

The researchers established that, as is the case with human to human management, in some cases it is advantageous to spend time programming (teaching) a robot how to do a task in order to reap the benefits later.

Vats, who presented the work, “Synergistic Scheduling of Learning and Allocation of Tasks in Human-Robot Teams” at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia added: “Robots aren’t static anymore, they can be improved and they can be taught.” The work was nominated for the outstanding interaction paper award.

In the work, the researchers asked three questions:

  1. When should a robot act to complete a task?
  2. When should a task be delegated to a human?
  3. When should a robot learn a new task?

Using algorithms and software to decide how to delegate and divide labor is not new. However, this work is among the first to include robot learning in its reasoning.

The team’s work could be useful in manufacturing and assembly plants, for sorting packages, or in any environment where humans and robots collaborate to complete several tasks. It was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Laboratory.

Robotics is the focus of the First Friday Editors’ Media Briefing on 2nd September in Central London, which features Mike Wilson from MTC as guest speaker. The media briefing will attract companies with an interest in Robotics that want to amplify their company news.

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