Meet your new co-worker

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 180-181
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.180

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Autonomous robots have never had the dexterity, vision, or common sense to safely navigate our world. But they are poised to break through as pets and helpers in homes, as caregivers in hospitals, and as co-workers in factories. The company behind a robot called Baxter is selling it to factories on the assumption that assembly lines are poised for disruption by a versatile robot that can take over mind-numbing tasks. For people to embrace bots in their daily lives, however, the machines will need social smarts. To probe that frontier, Baxter is serving as a test subject for robot psychology. In the past, experiments in human-robot interaction were limited to custom-built bots that require careful supervision to avoid harming human or robot. Baxter is built to interact safely with humans—and crucially, by design, it learns from people.