Winograd schemas

Through some conversations at AAAI last week, I came to know about Winograd Schemas and a challenge involving their interpretation that is considered by many to be a more fitting one than the conversation bot versions of the Turing Test that have repeatedly been shown to be easy to crack without really solving the main problem. A Winograd schema is based on pairs of sentences that differ in only one or two words which make a radical difference in the meaning, thus requiring deeper understanding of ‘commonsense’ in order to resolve the meaning.

This challenge has now been picked up by Nuance, who see substantial benefits from this level of AI to their own products. This is a positive thing.

I wonder if we can also define equally crisp and well defined challenges that bring out the need for intelligence in the area of robotics. The nice thing about the Nuance Winograd challenge is that it gets at the heart of the issue in a bite-sized fashion, allowing anyone with a keen mind and some bandwidth to potentially contribute to the issue. In contrast, most robotics challenges out there today are as much a test of people’s political and management skills in assembling the resources to compete as it is a test of scientific ideas – and even then, they often seem to be set up to not really address these kinds of core AI issues. It’d be a lot of fun to find more bite-sized yet deep and significant open problems within robotics.

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