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Robot Taught to Punch People, For 'Science'

Punch-Bot Borut Povše, of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, is conducting a slightly unsettling experiment in which high-powered industrial robots punch human subjects in an attempt to study the threshold at which machines cause pain. It sounds like the antics of a mad scientist, but Povše claims his work is aimed at quantifying the data necessary to institute Asimov's first rule of robotics: that a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The researcher told New Scientist, "We are taking the first steps to defining the limits of the speed and acceleration of robots, and the ideal size and shape of the tools they use, so they can safely interact with humans."

Povše borrowed a small-scale manufacturing robot, fitted it with two different tools (one blunt and one pointed), and programmed it to move to a point in space with increasing amounts of force. Between the beginning and end points in the robot's programming, a volunteer's arm is placed to absorb the impact. The subjects are then asked to judge the level of pain they felt from 18 different degrees of force. The ultimate goal is to design and program safer robots that are incapable or highly unlikely to harm a human bystander or operator. The experiment sounds a tad unpleasant, but on the scale of robot insanity it can't hold a candle to Stabby, the knife-wielding German robot.

Tags: RobotApocalypse, robots, safety, study, top, weird