Know any good jokes? New event aims to make UMD robots funnier

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Robots aren’t typically known for their sense of humor, but the creators of UMD’s caregiving robots are hoping to change that.

The robots created by Dr. Arshia Khan and a team of computer science students have been making a difference in more than a dozen nursing facilities across the state over the last year.

“We are very, very proud to see our work out there,” Khan said. “I think the biggest joy that comes from all of this work is when we see residents who haven’t talked in a long time, and then suddenly they start reacting to what the robot is saying and doing.”

The robots have made huge strides in cognitive and emotional therapy for elderly residents.

“They try to interact with the robot. They’re starting to talk. They’re starting to move and even tried to dance. Those are the times when we feel like you know, the late nights and the hard work has paid off,” Khan said.

Despite the success the robots have had, Khan said humor is hard to program.

“We’ve been looking for jokes because we are computer scientists, not comedians,” she said.

‘Beer and Bots’ was born to meet that need.

The monthly event will take place at Bent Paddle Brewery, aiming to help the robots tell better jokes.

“People could come and drink beer and then tell jokes to the robots to help them on their process of getting better jokes for the people at assisted living in nursing homes and such,” said Laura Mullen, Co-Founder of Bent Paddle.

Mullen said people will be able to write down joke suggestions for the robots.

Those will be programmed into the robots at a later date.

She’s also excited to give her patrons a chance to meet the robots.

“To have a place where the public can come gather with them, casually have a beer and get to know and learn about the robot program that’s here in Duluth, that is so cool,” she said.

Khan hopes the program will make the robots more relatable while providing important care.

Beers and Bots will take place every third Friday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m.