Engineers at MIT are working on instilling robots with “socially aware” navigation, allowing them to observe humans’ code of pedestrian conduct.
Generally speaking, most pedestrians follow a set of unspoken social conventions when they go out and about our day. Things like don’t walk into other people; try to walk past instead of through groups; keep to the right of the sidewalk and pass on the left; avoid incoming obstacles and walk at a steady pace so other pedestrians can avoid a collision in turn.
Robots aren’t at that level of social finesse just yet. So a team of researchers from MIT is trying to program it into the bots so they can better integrate and function alongside humans in society — while keeping annoying bumps in foot traffic to a minimum.