Do Androids Dream of…Serious Games?

'PR2' flips a pancake in a laboratory kitchen at Bremen University

‘PR2’ flips a pancake in a laboratory kitchen at Bremen University

Imagine a world where household robots are a reality. While they may not be human-like, or dream of electric sheep like in Philip K. Dick’s novel, robotics is increasingly becoming a tangible reality outside of the universities’ research facilities, and serious games play a big part in this.

Yes, you read right. Serious games have scientific uses much further than education and entertainment! After all, they are not called serious games for nothing. One of the most interesting applications is robotics. Programming robotic behavioral models imitating human-like activities has proven to be an incredibly difficult task, and serious games offer a solution to turn our embodied knowledge of everyday activities into the data needed to program these behavioral models. This is known as Robot Imitation Learning.

As we can see, serious games can act as the translating tool between human and robot behavior. This is a huge step, with a million implications for our (future) daily life. We will be able to program robots for tasks ranging from assisting the weak and the elder at their homes, to taking part in rescue missions in scenarios of natural catastrophes, war or ravaged by infectious diseases without putting human lives at risk…or to make pancakes for us on a Sunday. Basically, we are on the first steps of learning to combine human intelligence with technology and when that happens, we will be able to push our limits very, very far – and serious games are a part of it. You might as well start reading Isaac Asimov or any of the following titles we have gathered for you:

  • Beetz, M., Klank, U., Kresse, I., Maldonado, A., Mosenlechner, L., Pangercic, D., Ruhr, T., & Tenorth, M. (2011). Robotic roommates making pancakes. In Proc. Humanoids 2011, (pp. 529–536). IEEE.
  • Krause, M., & Smeddinck, J. (2012). Human Computation: A New Aspect of Serious Games., (pp. 1027–1047). In Handbook of Research on Serious Games as Educational, Business and Research Tools: Development and Design. IGI Global.
  • Pollard, N. S., Hodgins, J. K., Riley, M. J., & Atkeson, C. G. (2002). Adapting human motion for the control of a humanoid robot. In Proc. ICRA 2002, vol. 2, (pp. 1390–1397). IEEE.
  • Von Ahn, L., & Dabbish, L. (2008). Designing games with a purpose. Commun. ACM, 51(8), 58–67.
  • Walther-Franks, B., Smeddinck, J., Szmidt, P., Haidu, A., Beetz, M., & Malaka, R. (2015). Robots, Pancakes, and Computer Games: Designing Serious Games for Robot Imitation Learning. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (S. 3623–3632). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

About Andrea G. Sanz

Graduate in International Business and Marketing by the University of Southern Denmark, is interested in the healthcare and biotechnology sectors, particularly regarding neuroscience, and believes on the great possibilities that Serious Games can imply for the development of a healthcare system oriented to personalized medicine. Passionate about nordic languages and culture, she spends her free time writing for On Serious Games from cold Denmark.

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