Next Up for AI? Dancing Robots | Catie Cuan | TED

Catie Cuan’s TED Talk explores the intersection of robotics and dance, emphasizing the importance of teaching robots to move with intention, agility, and emotion. By integrating choreography and AI technologies, she envisions a future where robots can enhance human experiences and interactions, ultimately enabling harmonious coexistence in an AI-driven world.

In the TED Talk, Catie Cuan discusses her unique role in teaching robots how to dance. She highlights the importance of understanding how robot movements can impact human emotions and interactions as robots become more prevalent in our daily lives. By combining her expertise in robotics and dance, she introduces the concept of choreo-robotics, where robots are given physical intelligence through AI technologies like GPT and Gemini. She emphasizes the potential for robots to become better caregivers, teachers, and companions if they can move with intention, agility, balance, emotional expression, and grace.

Cuan explains that teaching robots to dance is not just about art or entertainment, but about applying the principles of movement and emotion to robots in everyday scenarios. By incorporating emotion and context into the design of intelligent machines, engineers can create robots that are more welcomed, safe, and delightful for humans to interact with. The choices made now will shape how we coexist with robots in the future, with the goal of empowering humans and making them more comfortable in an AI-driven world.

She describes her project at Google, where AI was used to teach a group of robots how to move together as a flock in an interactive performance called Project Starling. The robots were trained to recognize and respond to human gestures, creating a unique symphony of movement and music. This innovative approach required two years of engineering and showcased the potential for robots to improvise and react in complex environments, such as navigating through crowded spaces like Times Square.

Cuan envisions a future where robots can seamlessly interact with humans in various settings, such as senior living facilities or cafes. She imagines a scenario where a robot can understand gestures, navigate crowded spaces gracefully, and engage with people in a friendly and helpful manner. By programming robots to be understanding, welcoming, and capable of performing small celebratory dances, she believes that humans can coexist harmoniously with robots as they become more integrated into society.

In conclusion, Cuan emphasizes the importance of choreographing the future of robotics to create robots that not only fulfill functional tasks but also engage in creative and empathetic interactions with humans. She envisions a world where general-purpose robots can address demographic challenges and enhance human experiences, ultimately allowing humans to maintain their humanity in an increasingly AI-driven world. By shaping the way robots move and behave, we have the power to create a future where robots are seen as valuable companions and collaborators in our daily lives.