Monday, December 08, 2008

feedback and the appearance of intelligence

One of my undergrad degrees is "Weapons and Systems Engineering," which sounds scarier than it is. Weapons and Systems is basically controls track electrical engineering, but at USNA it's taught within the Weapons and Systems Engineering department. I took the major because it collided nicely with my love of video games and control systems -- plus, where else could you build robots that tried to destroy other robots?

The underlying fun -- both of writing games and building feedback-driven control systems -- is that reacting to the inputs and the world around you is what makes something seem to be alive. Whether a simple Eliza-style chatbot, an enemy AI rider who seeks you out cause you hit them, or a stepper motor tied to a camera that makes a water pistol face track, reacting is what makes things feel smart. Feel intelligent.

Nobody who's worked in that space can fail to love this movie:

It sure feels like our robot overlords are close to arriving.


Dale Innis said...

the heck is that? Is this low-res real-life, or pretty-good net-physics simulation? The hovering behavior looks baffling; what is holding it up with perfect steadiness at a fixed height?

cory ondrejka said...

Low res real life. Hovering using very precise rockets.