We are constantly innovating to go beyond what people believe to be possible with robotics. Our state-of-the-art Tinman technology is just one way we’re achieving this.
TinMan is our human telepresence technology, allowing people to converse with our robots in the most lifelike way possible.
Presently, TinMan is as easy as allowing an operator to connect to a robot and talk through it, offering a unique socially interactive experience for anyone talking to our robots. But the possibilities for the future are even greater than this.
Creating conversational AI
There’s still a lot of research to be done into creating AI that is as conversational as a human. AI already has advanced speech recognition and can reliably understand what people are saying to it. But it’s a different story when it comes to what AI does with that information.
Conversation isn’t as straightforward as listening and speaking. Conversation is about context, inflexions, tone of voice, the nuances of language, and countless other things.
And beyond speech there’s body language and gesticulation, so robots have to be able to read and use body language for a completely realistic conversation.
AI that can achieve this is decades away. But TinMan makes this realistic human-robot social interaction a thing of today.
Using robots to increase efficiency
The applications for TinMan are boundless. Let’s take a shopping centre, for example. There is usually one information point that people have to walk to in order to ask someone a question.
This is far from efficient practice and often involves getting lost in the labyrinth of a shopping centre just to find the information desk. TinMan would mean a shopping centre can have lots of strategically placed robots that people can approach to get information from.
The robots would only need to be operated by one or two people, so no extra manpower is required, and the customers wouldn’t have to travel far and wide to find an information desk.
This would be a far more efficient system for shopping centres to operate, plus the customers get the added experience of talking to a robot.
A similar application could be implemented in hotels. Instead of a hotel having lots of employees waiting at a reception desk for guests to arrive, which is again inefficient, a robot could be on hand at reception instead.
The employees could then be in a call centre, manning multiple hotels, and the TinMan function on the robot could be used whenever a guest enters the hotel or approaches with a question.
Improving by learning
Conversational AI would also play a role in the above examples. Someone entering a hotel could easily be greeted with a polite “hello” generated by AI. Simple processes such as taking names and checking guests into a room could also be handled automatically.
But there will always be a question that AI can’t answer, and that’s when the robot can connect the customer to a real human using TinMan.
So AI would handle the everyday processes like checking in at the hotel, and a real person would handle the curveball questions regarding the gluten-free continental breakfast options.
But AI would also be constantly improving by using machine learning. The more questions it’s asked, the more it learns from them. But until AI is good enough to handle all types of complicated queries, we need a human there to gracefully fall back on.
This combination of artificial intelligence with human intelligence (HI) is hybrid intelligence, and it’s required until we have AI capabilities that don’t need HI to assist it.
Think of electric cars. The first were half electric and half petrol, and they came about in the 1990s, starting as a hybrid before the capacity to be fully electric was possible. Something similar will eventually happen with AI. But we’re not quite there yet, and AI on its own doesn’t offer a good enough level of interaction.
All of our robots run on Engineered Arts’ own software system Tritium and are all equipped with TinMan. This gives the end user a more conversational, interactive experience, and it means the operators can work from a script, making the robot talk to people about whatever they wish.
TinMan is a unique creation that is innovating the world of robots today, as well as broadening the horizons of what robotics can achieve in the future.