News

Andrew Gordon on Bubble Guppies, the Demise of the Desktop and the Future of Human-Computer Interaction

February 18, 2015

A USC News story explored how we will communicate with computers in the future. The article, based on Andrew Gordon’s recent talk, “Mind-Reading for Robots,” predicts that human-computer interaction of the future will look a lot like the human-human interactions of today.

“The only interface that makes sense for this future era of computing is anthropomorphism,” Gordon said. “A driver doesn’t need to understand how the fuel injection system works to operate a car. If the car is having problems, he might tell the mechanic: ‘The engine is temperamental, or sluggish. Or mad.’”

Mechanics learn to interpret such anthropomorphic statements as code for any number of engine problems. So, too, might a computer learn to interpret references to psychological state as code for a spectrum of possible desired computing tasks, the story stated.

It’s a little like interpreting the behavior of Bubble Guppies on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, Gordon said. Using a fairly limited palette of motions and facial expressions, animators can convey to their young viewers a wide range of emotions, desires and intentions. When a Bubble Guppy shivers, laughs or frowns, kids understand what she is feeling. They need no elaborate theory of psychology to figure this out, just some common-sense models of everyday human mental life, stated the story.

“We need to equip computers with the same common-sense theories that we all use to understand each other in social interactions,” Gordon said.

The story also noted that Gordon and co-investigator Jerry Hobbs, of USC’s Information Sciences Institute have put the finishing touches on a book that encodes commonsense theories of human psychology as a set of 1,600 logical axioms.