Lisa Winter: What robot would you like to build?

"It is just very inefficient to have a robot in a humanoid form. There is no functional reason to make them perform like us."

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Mit 10 hat Lisa Winter ihren ersten Roboter gebaut. Einen Kampfroboter. Einen, der sich in sogenannten Bot Battles mit Seinesgleichen bekriegt. In den USA ist das mittlerweile ein richtiger Business, mit großen Turnieren, die im Fernsehen laufen. Und für Lisa Winter sind die Roboter eine Leidenschaft, die sie bis heute nicht losgelassen hat. Jetzt, mit Anfang 30, ist die Amerikanerin nicht nur Produktentwicklerin für den Spielzeughersteller Mattel. Sie macht auch jungen Frauen Mut, sich selbst am Basteln und Programmieren zu versuchen. Denn: Die Voraussetzungen sind so gut wie nie zuvor.

At the age of 10 Lisa Winter built her first robot. A battle bot. The fights have become a big business in the U.S. with championships shown on TV. Lisa Winter has kept her passion for robots. Now, in her early 30s, she is engineering project manager at Mattel. She encourages other women to start tinkering and programming. There's never been a better time for this before.

Das Gespräch wurde am Rande der re:publica 2017 in Berlin aufgezeichnet.

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Autor: Timur Diehn
Produktion: Webclip Medien Berlin
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Transkript des Videos

I'm not a fan of sitting and letting the world go by. I want to create the robots and develop the future.

I started building robots as a hobby for a robot combat where it's just sort of this side project, building a robot at nights and weekends. And then maybe once or twice a year you go and you meet other roboticists and you fight robots to the death. And so it‘s just a fun hobby. But really like all that knowledge from when I was 10 and I know that building all the way up until recently really taught me how to project managing, get something done and find out the scope of the projects and all of that design work and hands-on work which really got me right the jobs that I have now.

When I started building robots it was just hard to find a hardware store, like I used some motors from a barbie car. And a lawn mower blade from a hardware store for my combat robot. But now like after, maybe 10 years after that people started having stores where they sell actual components for combat robots. And then smart films came out, so people are making sensors, and they are making them smaller for consumers, so we have Adafruit, Sparkfun, the Arduino. So people are really more hands-on because of these accessible pieces of hardware and these new programming techniques. So it's just ... it's open for everyone to tinker.

I think it's the most natural thing. Because I just thought ... I didn't have any boundaries because I was 10 years old, so I saw this competition and wanted to compete. I started tinkering. I didn't see there any barriers like "Oh I can't do this because I'm female or I don't have an education". I just thought I'm gonna put something together. So, you know, it's not like, it wasn't planned. I didn't go to school for it. It wasn't this hard education where there was a path for me. I think really the path is going with what feels good.

The robots I develop, and most of them for battle bots and robowars are actually not humanoid. There are wheels, two wheels, maybe six wheels, there's two in the arena and then they come together and fight for 3 minutes or to the death. But I think humanoid is just very inefficient to have a robot in a humanoid form. You know, like the wheels are so great. I just wish all robots would have wheels because they can navigate so much better like there is no functional reason to make them perform like us. Even humans don't necessarily know how we work entirely. The human body and the human brain is so unique like let's just make the robot good at being a robot.

I think the aesthetic that I want to move forward with robotics is more robot-looking or animal appearance but not humanoid. So I think there's this uncanny valley with robots when they certainly look human that they just feel off, we not that they are not human. And it's like ... it feels very awkward. But when we make robots like there's a robot that's a dinosaur and there's a robot that's a seal. And since we don't know those faces and those animals as much as we know a human we can be more friendly with them. Or something that looks like a robot, let's say a cartooner movie, we can be really friendly with it also. And it's just something weird like we all see this from watching movies, interacting with robots in real life if we get the chance to meet them, for some reason we feel this way. It's an odd, unexplainable thing about human-robot interaction.

I feel like robots are everywhere, they are not as hidden or it's not gonna be this huge like "Oh my god, the robots are everywhere!" and we're being attacked. They are almost everywhere right now, you know, we have a phone with intelligence in our pocket. We have little vacuum robots, I have a robot mob. And it's not like taking a job, it's more like ... it's so like I just watch it go back and forth cause I'm thinking about what it's thinking, and I'm thinking about the algorithms, so it actually takes me more time cause I'm watching it for two hours go back and forth. But I think like if there are robots developed with artificial general intelligence, there's a new thing called AGI where they self-teach each other instead of humans programming the robot. That's really where we have to be concerned about maybe robots taking over. But I don't see that now for the foreseeable future.

There's always movies where robots are killing humans. But that assumes that they have AGI. And right now most robots, I guess every robot that has intelligence is just AI which is a person basically typing in, programming the robot and saying "If this do that". "If you sensor hits something over here turn around 90 degrees". So really these robots with their own mind and their consciousness and their own source you may say, that's really AGI where they learn from themselves and sort of navigate the world like a human baby would.

I like to multitask and I have the TV news on as I'm doing emails and stuff and then I call him Joey cause you got to put a name to a robot. And he goes back and forth but then if he goes under the bed I'm looking because he just does his great algorithms, I guess I'm thinking about like I'm a robot and how they programmed the robot to, you know, follow along the leg perfectly. It doesn't have any vision, he's doing this all by touch.