Toward animal-friendly robots

September 6, 2018, De Gruyter
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Semi-autonomous and autonomous machines and robots can become moral machines using annotated decision trees containing ethical assumptions or justifications for interactions with animals.

Machine ethics is a young, dynamic discipline, which primarily targets people, not . However, it is important that animals are kept from harm when encountering these machines since animals cannot make informed decisions or react as humans would.

Several prototypes of semi-autonomous and that do not startle animals in the wild have been developed at the FHNW University in Brugg-Windisch, Switzerland. The prototypes are a ladybird-friendly robot vacuum cleaner, a self-driving car, a drone study for nature photography and advanced driver assistance systems.

The article "Towards animal-friendly machines" by Professor Oliver Bendel of the FHNW School of Business, published in De Gruyter's open access journal Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics, describes how annotated decision trees for animal-friendly moral are being developed and compared while making the moral justifications transparent.

The modeling for the drone, for example, was presented in 2015 and instructed it to ignore humans, to avoid harming flying birds and to identify skittish animals and only photograph them from an appropriate height.

The robot vacuum cleaner was programmed to identify ladybirds by their coloring, and stop vacuuming until the insect had moved on. Furthermore, the owner could control the morality of the machine by presetting it to spare ladybirds, but vacuum other invasive or undesirable species. This may not seem animal-friendly, but absolute moral rules need not be enforced consistently if, for example, a vermin-free house is justified.

Programming advanced (ADAS) in terms of decisions they can make with respect to animals is the main focus of the Robocar design study. The study posits that ADAS should recognize warning signs for toad migration, hedgehog populations or deer crossings and adapt the car's reactions (emergency brake, reduced speed, etc) accordingly. In short, ADAS systems should identify such and animal species directly and react appropriately.

"Both robotics and computer science must be sensitized to animal protection and advocates for animal ethics should follow developments in robotics and artificial intelligences and should be involved in both," said Professor Bendel.

Explore further: Self-driving cars may soon be able to make moral and ethical decisions as humans do

More information: Oliver Bendel. Towards animal-friendly machines, Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics (2018). DOI: 10.1515/pjbr-2018-0019

Related Stories

Can we teach robots right from wrong?

October 14, 2014

From performing surgery and flying planes to babysitting kids and driving cars, today's robots can do it all. With chatbots such as Eugene Goostman recently being hailed as "passing" the Turing test, it appears robots are ...

Recommended for you

Team breaks world record for fast, accurate AI training

November 7, 2018

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have partnered with a team from Tencent Machine Learning to create a new technique for training artificial intelligence (AI) machines faster than ever before while maintaining ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rrwillsj
not rated yet Sep 07, 2018
How purr-fect. There are robots to monitor, clean, maintain, supply our homes.

There are robots to monitor, care for, educate, befriend our children,

Now, robots to monitor, care for, befriend our pets.

Why would adults ever bother going home now?

Yep, self-indulgent obsolescence. Yes, you are redundant to needs.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.