An Intereview on the Security Issues of BIG-i

Nowadays public opinion has polarized on the issue of artificial intelligence robot. Besides people who hold a positive attitude, there are also many voices of disapproval, such as Bill gates, who claimed: “Human should be worried about the threat posed by artificial intelligence.” Today we’re honored to have an interview with Tony Tang, the product manager of NXROBO BIG-i, to hear his opinion about the security issue.

Host: As we know, BIG-I is a personal robot. How do you deal with the security issues come along with robot when creating it?

Tony: Like personal computer or automobile, we believe that personal robot will inevitably become universal in the future and bring more convenience to human society. Meanwhile, we have always treated the security issues caught by robot with caution.

The principal threats robot can post are listed as following:

  • Network Security Issues. It consists of the security of personal information and privacy in family. In this regard, mobile phones, PCs, robots… all devices connected to the internet are at the same level of risk. Nevertheless, so far the information security issue is still within our acceptable range. People use internet to socialize, to deal with professional affairs or to shop online. The convenience that internet can bring far outweigh the risk of having them. Seldom do we hear that people stay away from internet just because of information safety concern. Likewise, there’s no need to raise concerns about personal robot as well. In regard of network safety, robot will face the same level of risks and opportunities as any other device.
  • Physical Security Issues. It consists of 2 parts: when the robot work in the normal state, it should guarantee the security both of itself and human being. When the robot is connected to internet, it can bring about new threats on physical level.

Unlike the previous intelligent devices, robot has mechanical mobility. Today, all the devices connected to internet are likely to face the risk of being invaded of controlled maliciously. If a robot with strong athletic ability loses its control, it can do much more harm than any intelligent device we ever know.

Therefore, under the conditions that existing technology cannot ensure that robots not being hacked illegally, we need to limit the athletic ability of robot in a certain range to ensure safety.

 

Host: In this case, what did you do to confine BIG-i’s mobility?

Tony: Above all, we consider that BIG-i needs to have mobility. It is an important feature that makes robot differentiate from other previous intelligent devices, in the same time it allows BIG-i take the initiative to detect and solve problems. But when we define BIG-i, we decided that its mobility will only serve for the perception and interaction process.

On the physical level, sensors of personal robot would act as its sensory organ, but each sensor has a limited perception range. When robot move with these sensors, there will be no more limit of space to perceive. On the other side, the mobility of PR can help improve interaction experience. The speed, the range of motion, the distance between robot and human, all make people have different feelings.

However, we don’t want BIG-i to have high compatibility mobility which can provide specific services. If a robot has a pair of humanoid arm, it will be able to bring you a tea or cook a dinner when needed. But if once the robot loses its control or be hacked, it will do much more harm with its humanoid arm. So we restrict BIG-i on this aspect, it has no arms or legs to do harm to people on the physical level.

Host: Since BIG-i doesn’t have any arm or leg, how can it provide some actual service like mentioned above?

Tony: We want to make BIG-i the smart hub of all the home appliances, it will be in charge of the perception and judgement process, and control other smart devices to complete their duties. For example, BIG-i can decide if there’s need to clean the floor and even plan the path for Roomba with its perceptual system, and do the acceptance check when the cleaning work is over.

Like this, we avoid wasteful duplication of building the perception and arithmetic processing system of all other home appliances, such as smart window, cleaning robot or washing machine. With the help of its extraordinary perceiving and computing capacities, BIG-i will act as the brain of intelligent ecosystem, allowing all devices to become simpler, lower cost and more intelligent.

On the other hand, that can also help to improve the security of smart home system – Let Roomba only take charge of the cleaning duty and the smart windows be responsible for open-close operation. From this, the space and usage of device’s mechanical mobility is limited. Even if the system is hacked, devices can only be used for certain functions within a limited space, so the risk can be minimized.

Host: BIG-i have a big eye, will it keep watching me and my family?

Tony: We design the eyelid of BIG-i with taking account of individual privacy. First, you can control its open-close operation, so when you don’t want BIG-i to see things, you can ask it to close its eye (which helps shut down the camera) anytime you want. Secondly, its eyelid will be a clear indication which can make you know clearly whether BIG-i is collecting visual information. For PC or cellphone, it is difficult for users to find out if its camera is hacked. So whether BIG-i can see things and what it should see, it’s all depends on you. In the same time, BIG-i’s eye helps improve interactive experience and make it more like a living thing than a mechanical body. Eyes are the most important path for creatures to communicate. We make it able to gaze, to blink, to close its eye, all these gestures represent different meanings.

Host: BIG-i is pretty tall for a family robot. What’s the consideration behind the design? Is BIG-i easy to fall?

Tony: After consideration of ergonomics, we decide the height of BIG-i. It is the best height for robot to interact with people in home environment, no matter the person is standing, sitting or squatting. To prevent BIG-i from falling, we tried to lower its center of gravity, and placed anti-collision sensors and angle measurement gyroscope at its bottom to ensure safety. BIG-i uses soft cushioning material as its muscle layer in external, which can not only help reduce the damage it suffers during collision, but also provide protection for family members. Moreover, the fabric appearance with soft cushioning material will bring robot and human closer. In many exhibitions and conferences, people come and take initiative to hug BIG-i. We are so proud to see that no matter young and old are willing to have a close contact with BIG-i.

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