Mansoor Hayat
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic: Research recent developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence, particularly concerning the COG project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What is the purpose of the COG project? How does the COG project fit into the field of human-computer interaction?


What is Artificial Intelligence? Artificial Intelligence is a study in the area of computer science, in which researchers are trying to create machines that could behave more like humans. Their attempt is to make computers do things that a human can do more easily and perfectly. Their goal is to make computers think, read, understand, recognize voices and be able to work according to human commands. The element that all AI researchers have in common is the creation of machines that are intelligent. In order to classify machines as "Intelligent", it is necessary for researchers to define what Intelligence is. Is Intelligence the ability to read, write, understand make common sense, generate new ideas and solve complex problems? Or is it something else? The best way to gauge the intelligence of a machine was stated by Alan Turing, a British computer scientist. Turing said, "A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human" ( 2705/history.html, 1997).

The term artificial intelligence was first introduced in 1956 at the Dartmouth conference. In 1957 the first version of a new program "The General Problem Solver" (GPS) was tested. The program was developed to solve common sense problems, which a human can solve easily (The history of AI). This was one of the steps towards the artificial intelligence goal of creating machines. Today with the invention of computers and 50 years of research into AI programming techniques, the dream of creating smart machines is becoming a reality.

Machines like Cog and Kismet are being worked on in the MIT AI lab. Cog and Kismet are basically robots with a head and two arms connected to a body. These projects are working so efficiently that they are able to mimic human thoughts, understand speech, recognize voices, and beat the best human chess players and so on. Cog and Kismet will continue to affect our jobs, play effective role in our education, and could be a source for us to learn different languages. Projects like Cog and Kismet are not finished yet but will be accomplished soon in the near future.

Why build a human-like robot?

The goal of artificial intelligence is to create machines that will be able to interact with people the way humans do. In one way or the other, researchers are trying to make a human like machine that has the capability of understanding and making common sense out of no where. AI research of 50 years has allowed the researchers to create robots named COG and KISMET.


The researchers of the MIT AI lab have been developing a robotic torso, called Cog. Their goal is to create a robot, which is capable of interacting with both objects and people in a human like way. Cog is designed to be intelligent, perceptive, able to judge and have motor control. The researchers came up with the thought that if they are to build a human-like machine, then it must have a human like body in order to develop human ways and to represent human feelings, understanding, and thoughts. The researchers are focusing on building a robot that is as human as possible. Cog is a two-armed machine with a head and over twenty actuated joints. The arms are completely symmetric, and they have no preference for one or the other. Cog has every part a human body should have, except legs but Cog is not perfectly human-like. Cog is not designed to feel emotions, regret; it is simply a machine that has some abilities that humans have.

The present prototype Cog was built in different stages. According to researchers there actually were no plans made, there were no blue prints of their research or drawings of the machine, Cog. Cog does not have a face, and the research goal is to design a humanoid face for Cog. With a well-designed face, Cog would be able to convey appropriate messages and interact with humans more meaningfully.

Moreover, Cog doesn't have a long-term memory. The robot cannot remember things that were done even two minutes ago. However, Cog is still being worked on and researchers will surely come up with something related to the machine's memory. The researchers are changing and improving the technology of the machines (


The sociable machine project at MIT is developing an expressive anthropo- morphic robot called Kismet. Kismet is designed to engage with people in natural and expressive face-to-face interaction (Cynthia). It's designed to express emotions, facial expressions, body posture, gaze direction and to have an infant's voice. Researchers have tried to create a baby. Kismet is equipped with visual, auditory and proprioceptive sensory inputs. Kismet is more human-like than Cog.

The machine Kismet is able to read, understand and react positively to the inputs given by people and/or the researchers. The machine is made of cameras, a microphone, and an articulatory synthesizer. Kismet is equipped with almost everything that could make Kismet perform more like a human. Kismet has been designed to support several social cues and skills that could ultimately play an important role in socially situated learning with a human instructor. Moreover, the approach of creating Kismet was inspired by the way an infant learns to communicate and start socializing with people.

Kismet is designed to be an altricial system, similar in spirit to a human spirit (Cynthia). That is, the robot starts off in a rather helpless and primitive condition and requires the help of a sophisticated caretaker to learn and develop. The relation between the caretaker and robot is completely social, much like the way in which a mother interacts with her infants.

Moreover, the primary and important issue for the researchers is how to establish a natural, real-time dynamic of interaction between learner and caretaker. From a broader perspective, this research not only aims at creating a learning machine, but also to build a system that a human can interact with and train in a natural and instinctive manner. (Sociable machines-Ongoing Research)

My Response:

The first time when our professor gave us the passage "Artificial intelligence" to read, my first reaction to the title was "Is this passage about the FBI, any thing related with investigation". But as I started reading the passage and then finished reading all of it, I ended up knowing something that I had never thought of and had never heard of.

It is not my aim to surprise you, but the simplest way I can summarize it is to say that there are now in the world machines that can think, that can learn and that can create. Overall, their ability to do things is going to increase rapidly in the visible future.

My personal knowledge about robots was that there are researchers who are trying to create robots that could do a lot of things like manufacturing cars, performing operations, and being in space projects. But robots that could actually talk and interact with people, express ideas, emotions, understand us was far from my knowledge. Reading the text for this project led me to do research on what AI is and how far they have gotten in their research of creating humanoid robots. I learned a whole lot about Cog and Kismet, the projects of the MIT AI lab. The researchers there are improving the technology of robots day by day.

While looking for information connected to my research project, I learned how to search the Internet. The Internet nowadays is the best source of information. A person looking for any information could just go on the net and get a whole lot of information for their search. I learned how to look for the different and the correct information. I learned a lot about what the MIT AI lab researchers are up to and how far they are in their research.

The future we will be facing will surely be different, unbelievable and hard to accept, but that will be reality. Everything will be mechanical; robots will be talking like humans, dealing with daily life aspects. Almost everything will be controlled by machines and computerized. For instance, just take a house totally controlled by a computer or a machine. You could just say things like "lights", "heat on/off", or "air-condition on/off" and there it will be done. A person practically won't have to do anything himself.

The major role in this technology will be voice recognition. Machines will have to recognize voices and be able to understand the voices of different persons. There are now software, programs, which are related with voice recognition. Some work well, but some are not useful. Sometimes they have difficulty in recognizing pronunciation or there is some thing else wrong.

The advancement in AI will continue to work on these projects. AI will affect our jobs, our education and our lives. We will be turning ourselves into machines. This was my first research project and doing this project I really learned a lot, gained my knowledge and learned about what's coming up in the future of technology and the way in which our lives will be changing in many different ways.


AI has always been on the pioneering end of computer science. Advanced level computer languages, as well as computer interfaces and word processors owe their existence to the research into artificial intelligence. The theory and insights brought by AI will set the trend in the future of computing. The products available today are only bits and pieces of what are soon to follow, but they are a movement towards the future of Artificial Intelligence.

The future of technology, the future of our lives, everything will be affected by what is created today. Machines, computers will be so intelligent that they will be able to deceive humans. They will play a role in every aspect of our lives. We can see our future just by looking at what the MIT AI lab researchers have already created, machines like Cog and Kismet.


Anika. Cog,

Cynthia. Kismet,

Cynthia (Sociable machines-Ongoing Research), view/html

Turing, Alan. An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, 1997.