The AAAI 2008 Robotics and Creativity Workshop

Article excerpt

Robotics and creativity may appear to some to be a contradiction in terms. Developments in mechanical control and complex motion planning have enabled robots to become almost commonplace in situations requiring precise but menial, tedious, and repetitive tasks. Recent robotics research has targeted the mechanical and computational challenges inherent in performing a much broader range of tasks autonomously. These problems are less well-defined, requiring greater intelligence, commonsense reasoning, and oftentimes novel solutions. By most definitions, creativity (the generation of novel and useful ideas) is necessary for intelligence; thus research efforts focusing on robotics and creativity are also efforts toward artificial intelligence. As robots and computer physical systems become more capable, they are increasingly useful in the study of creativity itself.

Furthermore, machines have the capacity to expand the human creative palette, and robots have been embraced by many in the arts community for the development and execution of new creative works. Robots have been incorporated into live performances, some with capabilities that exceed the limitations of most human performers (such as the speed of playing a musical instrument). Robots could potentially be creativity-enhancing tools for artists and performers, for example, serving as proxies for human performers in rehearsals to prototype and refine artistic ideas. Robotics could also be invaluable as a platform for studying human creativity through controlled, repeatable experiments. As a physical, numerically controlled platform, a robot can be asked to perform actions precisely and repeatedly, whereas a human performer can not. Furthermore, by recreating components of a human-generated performance exactly, we could examine aspects of creativity: When is an action perceived as being a mere repetition versus something creative?

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The AAAI 2008 Robotics and Creativity Workshop was organized to highlight work relevant to this multidisciplinary field, to bring together researchers focusing on this area, and to discuss challenges and opportunities for future work. The workshop sessions began with invited talks from several distinguished speakers noted for their recent work incorporating aspects of robotics and creativity. These were followed by spotlight presentations from the other invited workshop participants. The session concluded with a general group discussion of the challenges and opportunities linking research in robotics and creativity. The Robotics Exhibition was open over the next three days, and hundreds of visitors from the general AAAI conference were able to observe and interact with the robots and exhibits brought to the event (figure 1).

Workshop Invited Presentations

The workshop program began with 30-minute invited talks by distinguished speakers on topics holding particular relevance for research in robotics and creativity. The first presentation was given by Amy Baylor, program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). This presentation focused on the NSF CreativeIT program, initiated in 2007 and continuing in 2008, which also supports the work of several workshop participants. Dr. Baylor outlined the research areas targeted by the program: understanding of creative cognition and computation, creativity to stimulate breakthroughs in science and engineering, educational approaches that encourage creativity, and support for creativity with information technology. She also reviewed a list of recent awardees, highlighting those with particular connections to robotics and AI research.

Ruzena Bajcsy, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and former director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), gave the second invited talk, along with her collaborator Lisa Wymore (assistant professor of dance at University of California, Berkeley). …