A Kitchen Robot serving in restaurant

September 03, 2013
The aim of the movie is to highlight some of the key challenges facing social robots in the wild. The opening scene shows a PR2 leaving a research laboratory venturing into the real world alone in search of meaning. Each subsequent scene in the movie raises important research questions highlighting problems that need to be addressed in the field of social service robotics. When will robots wander around buildings unsupervised? How will they navigate and localize with glass walls: this research problem is exposed when a robot finds itself having to move around a real building.
The robot is independent and has a sense of self. It wants to engage in society. It solves this problem by finding a job in a cafe where it is assigned menial tasks, but aspires to be a barista. Thus raising the question of whether PR2 robots are suited to working with hot steaming liquids. Still the robot can dream, why not.
The robot realizes in order to progress it needs to learn some new skills and it is shown teaching itself a new skill and practicing to improve its performance. When it is time to put the new skill into practice, the robot has a revelation, discovering in the act of doing that there can be preconditions attached to the enaction of skills, i.e. people do not need peanut butter until they have bread to spread it on.
The robot demonstrates his robust understanding of social etiquette by not only offering the peanut butter to the female-human first, but chastising a male-human for not observing this important social protocol.
The story ends with the recaptured robot being dragged back to the lab. The robot appears to be mortified by its loss of freedom and looks utterly dejected and dispirited. The robot's behavior generates empathy the human minder, but the robot is pretending to be disheartened, and is deceitfully planning its next escapade as a Jedi Knight! Deception is a highly sophisticated cognitive skill: a capability enabled by a theory of mind which is necessary for communication, social interaction and collaboration, all critically important skills for a service robot.