Design for an Autonomous Agent

Erann Gat

This missive is being written for a workshop on autonomous vacuum cleaners. The problem statement reads as follows: ...this symposium will concentrate on AI as applied to a physically instantiated robot for vacuuming household floors. The target problem is to autonomously vacuum a living room while doing the right thing with furniture, trash, pets, etc. I will argue informally that this is not an AI problem at all. None of the techniques currently being investigated by researchers can produce effective vacuuming behavior better than the simple expedient of robust mechanical design. In particular, I will argue that contact sensors which cover the entire body of the robot, together with a sealed drive mechanism and some means of self-localization, are both necessary and sufficient to produce robust autonomous vacuuming.

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